Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Georgia: U.S. - respect for religious freedom in Georgia continues to improve

PanARMENIAN.Net Respect for religious freedom by the Georgian government continued to improve during 2008, says U.S. State Department in its annual International Religious Freedom Report.

Abuse of religious minorities, including violence, verbal harassment, and disruption of services and meetings, continued to decrease, says the report.

Report focuses on the legal status and registration of various religious groups. Under the law, religious groups other than the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) may register with the Government as either unions or foundations.

“However, some religious communities, including Armenian Apostolic Church, continued to express dissatisfaction with the status that registration provided. They remain opposed to registering as civil organizations, stating that they prefer to be recognized explicitly as churches or granted a distinct status as a group based on religion. The Muslim community had also not registered,” the document further says.

Under the report, disputes over legal status creates hardships in terms of providing funding for the construction of minority churches. It brings the example of AAC Norashen Church (Tbilisi) which wasn’t funded by Ministry of Culture on grounds that it was reluctant to be registered. Report also says that GOC is attempting to appropriate the Armenian monastery. Georgian Ministry of Culture, according to report, has stated that it will be unable to fund the project unless the church has an official owner.

Other disputed issues are concerned with the ownership of several churches. Catholics and Armenian Apostolic Church find that “the Government was unwilling to resolve disputes over the ownership of disputed church properties for fear of offending GOC constituents.”

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