Tragedy & Farce: The Georgian Church & The Georgian Dream

From Stools to Cyanide could be the title of a book about the last four-years of activity of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which began on May 17, 2013, when the LGBT rally was disrupted on Rustaveli Avenue, and ended on February 12, when the alleged plan to murder the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia was prevented in the neutral zone of Tbilisi International Airport. In Georgian reality, just as in ancient Greek mythology, history repeats itself: once as a tragedy and then as a farce.

Four years ago, the main street of our capital became a battlefield. Armed with crosses and stools, priests and their supporters announced a public hunt against the local LGBT community, who were preparing for International Anti-Homophobia Day. The celebration soon grew into an inquisition and almost finished by turning into a common national tragedy.

For the Georgian Dream, which had recently come to power, this day was like the first exam after their victory. On this day, it would become clear whether or not the government planned to show appreciation for the help that the Georgian Church had provided them prior to the October 1 elections, and this they did, paying back “kindness for kindness” and turning a blind eye to the crimes of the clergy. The day launched dangerous and ominous trends in our country.

A day doesn’t pass without an assault against members of the LGBT community. Orthodox Christian activists attack anyone they don’t like, sometimes even only because of their outfit or hair style. Moreover, there are murders of transgender people, who successfully avoid imprisonment with the help of the clergy.

Threats can be heard from the Georgian Orthodox Church in light of the government’s inaction. Bishop of Bodbe, Chorbishop of Catholicos-Patriarch, or his deputy, Bishop Iakob, who was one of the organizers of the anti-gay rally in 2013, said: “Today these gentlemen say such things about us! They should conduct themselves! They shouldn’t confuse us with people who won’t ask for any explanation for their words! The era of their scuffle should end! No foreign countries can force us to become their slaves!”

Historian Lasha Bakradze believes that Georgia “faces a serious threat of religious fundamentalism and theocracy” and this threat is increasing. The clergy publicly demands delegating secular authority, for example, they want to be able to give official consent to certain legislative acts. We can also recall the sermons in which they mobilized parishioners against the United National Movement.

This was the attitude that the Georgian Dream and the Georgian Church carried until February 12. On this day, Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze was arrested at Tbilisi Airport and charged for attempting to prepare the murder of the Patriarch. This day somehow turned into the day of separation of the government and the Church, an episode once again proving how multifaceted the whole situation is; how many various intrigues and conspiracy processes have been caused by the cyanide case, the devastating result of which we have yet to realize.

And the last few days became a complete tragicomedy: curses from the Church, comical reactions to these curses, all-encompassing falsehood, the obvious confusion of the government, the complete intellectual and voluntary helplessness of the highest Church hierarchies (how can a journalist destroy you so shamefully during live streaming!?) and the ultimate demoralization of society. This last one is the worst, though, as you often hear: “I don’t know what is happening or what happened in reality, “whose cassock is in whose pulpit?”- I’m not interested in this anymore.”

The Georgian Christian Church hasn’t received such a destructive punch in the face since the communist era and it is very hard to predict whether it will be able to survive it – regardless of the “project” outcome and the “winner,” be it the Georgian Dream or the Georgian Church.

Zaza Jgarkava

18 May 2017 18:27