Opinion

Religious Radicals – the Biggest Threat to Georgia’s Democracy

by | May 20, 2013
tsharashenidze

Tornike Sharashenidze is professor and head of MA Program of International Affairs at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs.

These shameful events posed new questions (or rather question marks) for the Georgian democracy. The country has achieved a lot since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has effectively fought crime and corruption; it has managed to change its government through peaceful elections.

But is Georgia a secular state if the church can mobilize such a huge crowd and challenge the authorities? Can Georgia be a democracy when so many people do not understand basic values of liberty? These two problems may turn out much more difficult than corruption and fair elections.

But these problems are to be tackled immediately. For this, one has to understand what went wrong during the 22 years of independence and how it happened that May 17 became possible. This is a complex question, and so the answer is complex too. Let’s concentrate on the outstanding points.

1. The Georgian Orthodox Church. The Georgian church once played a visible role in preserving Georgian independence and the national idea in general. But since the annexation of Georgia by the Russian empire (the late 18th century) the church underwent drastic changes. Not only its autonomy was scrapped (and it became a part of the Russian church) but it became (like the Russian church proper itself) a subsidiary of the government. Of course, things went worse under the communist regime when church was controlled by KGB. It goes without saying that KGB influence could not be eradicated for 22 years. Besides, despite regaining autonomy Georgian Orthodox Church is still closely affiliated with the Russian church which still seems to be controlled by the Russia special services. As a result the Georgian church is generously provided with literature that condemns “the Satanic West,” “Masonic conspiracies against orthodox peoples” and praises “spiritual unity of the orthodox against the West.” It would not be fair to say that all of the Georgian clergymen are influenced by this propaganda but unfortunately there are more than enough. Their name is Legion and they are against Georgia’s European choice.

The Georgian church gained huge influence over the people due to the simple fact that Georgian authorities never were so popular given the difficulties of transition period – in wide-spread poverty and political instability church seemed to be the only institution that stood above the mundane problems and vanity. Realizing the increasing popularity of the church and especially its leader (patriarch Ilia II) the Georgian authorities (first Shevardnadze than Saakashvili) tried to turn the clergymen into their allies by granting them unprecedented economic privileges. As a result the Church receives a huge sum from the state budget and it enjoys tax exemptions (whereas it is vastly involved in commercial activities). Finally this backfired against the Saakashvili government. The Legion realized that by bestowing the above mentioned privileges Saakashvili merely tried to win time and keep the church quiet while he drove Georgia toward the West. Consequently these clergymen got involved in the election campaign of 2012 and contributed a lot to the change of regime.

After the elections the Legion became even more self-assured. When the LGBT rally was announced and when the new authorities supported the rights of sexual minorities the Legion was genuinely offended – they did not get involved in the regime change for nothing; they expected the new authorities to obey the rules dictated by the Legion (in better case they expected the new authorities to denounce Georgia’s pro-Western stance). On May 17 the Legion challenged the new authorities, it demonstrated its power. Now it is the turn of the government – either it repeats the mistake of Saakashvili or it reacts in a proper manner.

2. Education. The Soviet Union hardly provided education relevant for liberal values and democracy. Unfortunately since regaining its independence Georgia has struggled to reform its education system. Not only the elder people but the Georgian youth too severely lack civic education. The discussions among common people are dominated by conspiracy theories and evolve around mystical subjects. These people are easily influenced by the Legion.

3. Poverty and unemployment. As Georgia suffers from unemployment lots of people start to seek shelter in religious ceremonies, lots of people prefer to listen to promises about divine help rather than look for opportunities. Unemployed, poor people are always disappointed by their authorities; they are easily manipulated by the “spiritual leaders” and led against minorities that are blamed for their failures.

May 17 should become another turning point for Georgian democracy. It has made clear that the country faces a serious problem. If not the shameful events of this day the problem could be neglected further and the Legion would become even stronger. The Georgian non-governmental sector unanimously condemned the May 17 events and hopefully it will follow the problem to the end. Hopefully the authorities will do the same. If they do not do so then they will endanger not only their own position but the future of the country too. The authorities should start to apply civil code to the Legion, demonstrate strong commitment to the rule of law and finish with the interference of church in state affairs. Make no mistake: the church in West also committed various crimes and atrocities. This problem was solved only when the church was separated from the state and so it lost political power. Now the same has to be done in Georgia. It is not so easy but there is no other choice. It is now or never.



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2 Comments, Leave a comment

  1. Elene

    1

    In a certain way the events and violence are the demonstration of the lack of understanding of liberal democracy. I assume the roots of the problem are embedded in ill defined strategies of the previous government. They had misinterpreted and misrepresented many basic principles of democracy and civil society. The violence was a partial outcome of that pattern of falsification and distortion of libertarian values.

  2. debbie debutantte

    2

    Community
    TEMPEST IN A RAINBOW COLORED TEAPOT?
    2013.05.27 12:47

    The recent LGBT gay rally in Tbilisi failed for its second year in its attempt to popularize sexual gender politics in Tbilisi. Therefore, we might now ask if the hostilities that resulted from this rally inspired by foreign NGOs and the small local group Identoba, really should be a reason to question the effectiveness of the new Ivanishvili government, or to portray the entire Christian Orthodox national religion of Georgia as being “backward” and represented by a cave-full of retrograde priests? It seems the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), should not be pursued so vigorously in its current fashion in the Eastern Orthodox Christian nations, especially in the light that this movement was so unpopular in the liberal city of Love, Paris, in the following days. More innovative and sensitive techniques than IDAHOBIT, perhaps, are required for greater civil and human rights for non-traditional sexual lifestyle activists.
    As reported by Freedom House, an NGO with central offices in Washington DC and New York City, Saakashvili in late 2011 signed into law amendments to the Georgian civil code that enabled religious groups to register as legal entities, against the clearly stated wishes of the national Orthodox Church of Georgia. By July 2012 four new religious groups had been registered already for official legal status in Georgia. http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2012/georgia

    Does this across-the-board bold green light in Georgia give a kind of fast food freedom to multiple and even arcane religions to register their legality in Georgia? It presents a symbolic victory flag to religions that could conceivably clash with the well established national religion of Georgia which dates back to the 4th century. Does this new legislation work as an enabler? An enabler of USAID and/or Anglo-American-French-Israeli private citizens monies or missionaries, to assist whatever sects, organizations, or cults, such as Moonies, Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses, extremist Hassidic isolationists, Children of God, Pentecostals, Druids, Neopagans, Jews for Jesus, and the new Alien Abductees faith-based movement–in addition to Bahais and Wiccans too–as an enabling support system for antagonistic religions and sects seeking a foothold here in Georgia? Should Georgia evolve into a one-stop shopping for god, as in an American retail shopping mall? After more than six years of living here and working as an editor of government reports, writer, and teacher of English in Georgia, my answer is a polyphonic Caucasian NO.

    We have two issues here suddenly and complexly intertwined in the camera lenses of the western media and various western NGO spokespersons. On the one hand are gay rights, should they be paraded downtown against the admonitions of the Georgian Church? Alongside this development, in lock-step, are the rights of the new legal religious entities’ easy registration in Georgia. There is a fine borderline in politically-correct American-brand “democracy guidelines and protocols”, that blurs the rights of minority groups known for their non-traditional sexual preferences, attached at the hip to minority rights legislated for non-traditional religious persons. Some western news outlets and NGO spokespersons are now shrilly even suggesting that this less-than-an-hour long violent melee outbreak during the Tbilisi IDAHOBIT gay lifestyle LGBT activists’ attempted declaration, which incurred no deaths and not even one permanent injury, was a stealth operation of Russia working in tandem with the Georgian Orthodox Church hierarchy. The innuendo is that the new Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is sleeping in bed with Putin of Russia and the whole Kremlin, and in their assessment he is a lame puppet of Putin who meekly does not want to make war with Russia or Syria or Iran. Russia had been harangued in hours long speeches here, for ten hostile years, again and again and over and over, by President Saakashvili, who claimed vociferously that Russia was the single-most cause of all evils in this Georgian nation. The boom of such explosive rhetoric was subdued when Saakashvili lost his leadership last October 2012 during the universally NGO approved democratic national parliamentary elections that took place here.

    Don’t forget, there was also an anti-gay backlash last May 2012 in front of the Philharmonic during the LGBT activists’ rally, in which quite a ruckus took place also, during the government of Saakashvili. Now all of a sudden, Ivanishvili’s new-in-government Dream Team is somehow suspect of nefarious felonies because of a repeat performance of a cluster of foreign NGO agitators, promoting gay rights as if they are in bohemian San Francisco, clashing with a few well known repeater and extremist Georgian Orthodox priests. Magically, out of the blue, this year a sizeable larger number of homophobes from the provinces were alerted and present at Ground Zero to make the headlines, doing their uncivil deeds against the foreign brigade of LGBT activists, who brought along a few of their Georgian gay representatives to exhibit themselves alongside them.

    Is there something i am missing here? I know more than a few Georgian gays here and none of them would have gone near the western organized protest used to demonstrate for greater civil and human rights, and to forcibly attempt to make their sexual lifestyle more presentable to Orthodox Christians. I think these people here in Georgia, on their own, given a little more time, can iron out a fistful of wrinkled homophobic priests, using their own devices, don’t you? Do most people think like me, that without alien NGOs sending press releases to BBC and CNN, and EuroNews, i.e., not so reliable news sources any longer these days in the single-voiced western owned media, that Georgia can find its own answers without persistent unsolicited outside help? Much like the Arabs do NOT “so desperately” need our Arab Spring agitators and democracy-touting NGOs. Or do we need to interfere here like in Syria and Libya and I guess, what the hell– why not in Lebanon and Egypt and Tunisia too-or why not ubiquitously? Everywhere United States AID is proffered, by U.S. aid groups and government agencies, it has a steep price-the underlying devious cost of American commerce and military and cultural imperatives, descending like hailstones. When will a few of these aid agencies and democracy-fighting NGO ninjas return home and fight it out against the biggest threat of them all threatening democracy, i.e., against the menacing forces and planks that are desiccating human rights in USA right now minute by precious minute, undermining Democracy so much that it is soon to become a dirty word?

    Former glorious democratic Made-In-USA ideals are now smeared by bankster frauds careening into tens of trillions of dollars, without any new banking regulations on Wall Street, in addition to the largest military empire expansion since the bloody sword-slashings of Alexander the Great’s robo-soldiers, along with “shelter-in-place” pseudo martial law restrictions brought about without precedence just after the Boston Marathon. How could two boys who grew up in America have done this evil deed, and they may or may not have been any more guilty, than the many Craft International security personnel that were also lavishly caught on camera by dozens of witnesses, with their backpacks missing on their shoulders after the explosions subsided? Twenty years of unfettered growth of the aerospace arms makers and traders, have damaged the American Dream, as have the satellite technology and microwave communications security systems firms, which are now permanently embedded deeply into nearly all facets of American industry and service jobs and activities. It is time for the disenfranchised of USA to brush aside lobbyists and try to restore some sense of democracy back into the Senate and House of Representatives, in new and innovative ‘Yankee Spring’ acts of protest, along the same lines and methods as advocated by LGBT and Arab Spring organizers.

    OCCUPY WALL STREET and “We Are the 99 Percent” civil and financial rights movements have already been nearly completely silenced in USA by police strategies and surveillance techniques. Shouldn’t we put our vehemence for reform back onto our own soil, where we understand the culture and traditions somewhat better? The Czech Republic has a balanced relationship with the USA, the EU, and with Russia, all three now trusted by them like a Holy Trinity. Let us ask a hypothetical question now: Would the same NGOs and western spokespersons here in Georgia warn the Czechs that the Czech government was in collusion with the Russians in suppressing human rights, because of a clash between Orthodox Christians and gay activists’ rights in the streets of central Prague? Shouldn’t the NGOs be equally if not more alarmist about prisoners’ rights? Have political prisoners’ rights become so mundane in Georgia that they will become inconsequential in comparison to LGBT activists’ rights? Last year during the LGBT rally here, the violence was less than this year, but there was still plenty of it, and there was no voice then, not even a peep, defending the tens of thousands of prisoners who were still wrongly imprisoned and staving off TB and rape on the inside of Georgian prison cells.

    Don’t you think it is time for NGOs here to set their priorities into some kind of order of importance? Let the local gays do it on their own, their own style of seeking attention to address their own requests and grievances, and let the majority of good priests here apply more corrective and coercive measures to their own bad apples. I give the Georgian people and intelligentsia and Church here, much more credit than the current tone of the western media. The question here in Georgia maybe should be, “Couldn’t the new government request the Church to put into their priesthood, ONLY university trained graduates of approved Orthodox seminaries?” I feel that the NGOs if they want to be so alarmist, should also focus on human rights abuses in Israel. Shouldn’t we all get equally alarmed as the western media, over the hostilities seen at the LGBT rally in Tbilisi, if such issues are so urgent, over the irony that in Israel we are not seeing huge throngs of minorities-rights protestors being gently protected,? Are the bulk of NGOs in Israel getting really worked up over the bulldozing down of homes of non-Jews, as much as the NGOs are getting worked up over LGBT altercations during an inflammatory Tbilisi IDAHOBIT rally?

    One should first ask– if they really are concerned and want to improve the living standards of Georgian gender minorities– what exactly are the numbers of battered and abused gays here in Georgia? Are their numbers more, or less, than battered wives statistics? Should we have a foreign NGO backed public parade of Battered Wives demanding justice against their Georgian husband beaters? Are the numbers of bashed gays here more or less than the proportion by population in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey and Dubai? In which land[s] should our western NGOs and democracy-building spokespersons endeavor to achieve sexual rights for more and more and more of the silent minorities of LGBTs? Should one condemn Israel for their bashings against their minority religions, as much as the Ivanishvili government and the Orthodox Church are taking heat for not protecting their sexual minorities and minority religions? Let’s hear this out immediately instead of making a huge mistake in over-publicizing an unclear foreign-imposed agenda that does not represent the majority of gays in Georgia. And if you disagree, show us all wrong with a survey and poll, of tens of thousands of gays here in Georgia, who incontrovertibly agree that they need access to larger gay parades in central Tbilisi, more frequently organized, along with some proof that such public activities increase their standard of living and civil security.

    In the last week I have read in the local and national media, and seen on YouTube numerous NGO and western self-appointed spokespersons of democracy-validating entities, alleging that Russia is THE evil shadow which is behind this recent homophobic outburst here in Tbilisi. As usual in Georgia, somebody helped during this recent LGBT rally, to congregate agitators into a knuckle-punch formation, with money handouts or free transportation or nice new protest T-shirts, using a number of busloads importing in from the regions, a legion of homophobic late teen-aged boys, joined in animosity by an ideological cluster-bomb of extremist homophobic priests. There was little mention in the western media at all about the presence of priests who were there in their black frocks standing around only to register their protest against too liberal and exhibitionist an LGBT rights demonstration– for their parishioners. These priests I refer to now were not advocating violence nor invectives. If there is a sinister shadow strategy afoot by Russia, to destabilize all former Soviet client states vis-à-vis angry Orthodox priests hostile to LGBT public rallies, it is time to let us hear from the multitudes of Georgian gays here that this suspicious idea holds true and that this conspiracy theory is as palpable a reality as the taste of the legendary large red ripe Georgian tomatoes, when held in one’s mouth in mid summer. Has this recent media tempest for the rights of sexual minorities, been created out of a web of western networks, and is it actually more bluster than it is fact? Is it merely more convenient than it is reformatory? Let us see.

    The recent LGBT gay rally in Tbilisi failed for its second year in its attempt to popularize sexual gender politics in Tbilisi. Therefore, we might now ask if the hostilities that resulted from this rally inspired by foreign NGOs and the small local group Identoba, really should be a reason to question the effectiveness of the new Ivanishvili government, or to portray the entire Christian Orthodox national religion of Georgia as being “backward” and represented by a cave-full of retrograde priests? It seems the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), should not be pursued so vigorously in its current fashion in the Eastern Orthodox Christian nations, especially in the light that this movement was so unpopular in the liberal city of Love, Paris, in the following days. More innovative and sensitive techniques than IDAHOBIT, perhaps, are required for greater civil and human rights for non-traditional sexual lifestyle activists.
    As reported by Freedom House, an NGO with central offices in Washington DC and New York City, Saakashvili in late 2011 signed into law amendments to the Georgian civil code that enabled religious groups to register as legal entities, against the clearly stated wishes of the national Orthodox Church of Georgia. By July 2012 four new religious groups had been registered already for official legal status in Georgia. http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2012/georgia

    Does this across-the-board bold green light in Georgia give a kind of fast food freedom to multiple and even arcane religions to register their legality in Georgia? It presents a symbolic victory flag to religions that could conceivably clash with the well established national religion of Georgia which dates back to the 4th century. Does this new legislation work as an enabler? An enabler of USAID and/or Anglo-American-French-Israeli private citizens monies or missionaries, to assist whatever sects, organizations, or cults, such as Moonies, Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses, extremist Hassidic isolationists, Children of God, Pentecostals, Druids, Neopagans, Jews for Jesus, and the new Alien Abductees faith-based movement–in addition to Bahais and Wiccans too–as an enabling support system for antagonistic religions and sects seeking a foothold here in Georgia? Should Georgia evolve into a one-stop shopping for god, as in an American retail shopping mall? After more than six years of living here and working as an editor of government reports, writer, and teacher of English in Georgia, my answer is a polyphonic Caucasian NO.

    We have two issues here suddenly and complexly intertwined in the camera lenses of the western media and various western NGO spokespersons. On the one hand are gay rights, should they be paraded downtown against the admonitions of the Georgian Church? Alongside this development, in lock-step, are the rights of the new legal religious entities’ easy registration in Georgia. There is a fine borderline in politically-correct American-brand “democracy guidelines and protocols”, that blurs the rights of minority groups known for their non-traditional sexual preferences, attached at the hip to minority rights legislated for non-traditional religious persons. Some western news outlets and NGO spokespersons are now shrilly even suggesting that this less-than-an-hour long violent melee outbreak during the Tbilisi IDAHOBIT gay lifestyle LGBT activists’ attempted declaration, which incurred no deaths and not even one permanent injury, was a stealth operation of Russia working in tandem with the Georgian Orthodox Church hierarchy. The innuendo is that the new Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is sleeping in bed with Putin of Russia and the whole Kremlin, and in their assessment he is a lame puppet of Putin who meekly does not want to make war with Russia or Syria or Iran. Russia had been harangued in hours long speeches here, for ten hostile years, again and again and over and over, by President Saakashvili, who claimed vociferously that Russia was the single-most cause of all evils in this Georgian nation. The boom of such explosive rhetoric was subdued when Saakashvili lost his leadership last October 2012 during the universally NGO approved democratic national parliamentary elections that took place here.

    Don’t forget, there was also an anti-gay backlash last May 2012 in front of the Philharmonic during the LGBT activists’ rally, in which quite a ruckus took place also, during the government of Saakashvili. Now all of a sudden, Ivanishvili’s new-in-government Dream Team is somehow suspect of nefarious felonies because of a repeat performance of a cluster of foreign NGO agitators, promoting gay rights as if they are in bohemian San Francisco, clashing with a few well known repeater and extremist Georgian Orthodox priests. Magically, out of the blue, this year a sizeable larger number of homophobes from the provinces were alerted and present at Ground Zero to make the headlines, doing their uncivil deeds against the foreign brigade of LGBT activists, who brought along a few of their Georgian gay representatives to exhibit themselves alongside them.

    Is there something i am missing here? I know more than a few Georgian gays here and none of them would have gone near the western organized protest used to demonstrate for greater civil and human rights, and to forcibly attempt to make their sexual lifestyle more presentable to Orthodox Christians. I think these people here in Georgia, on their own, given a little more time, can iron out a fistful of wrinkled homophobic priests, using their own devices, don’t you? Do most people think like me, that without alien NGOs sending press releases to BBC and CNN, and EuroNews, i.e., not so reliable news sources any longer these days in the single-voiced western owned media, that Georgia can find its own answers without persistent unsolicited outside help? Much like the Arabs do NOT “so desperately” need our Arab Spring agitators and democracy-touting NGOs. Or do we need to interfere here like in Syria and Libya and I guess, what the hell– why not in Lebanon and Egypt and Tunisia too-or why not ubiquitously? Everywhere United States AID is proffered, by U.S. aid groups and government agencies, it has a steep price-the underlying devious cost of American commerce and military and cultural imperatives, descending like hailstones. When will a few of these aid agencies and democracy-fighting NGO ninjas return home and fight it out against the biggest threat of them all threatening democracy, i.e., against the menacing forces and planks that are desiccating human rights in USA right now minute by precious minute, undermining Democracy so much that it is soon to become a dirty word?

    Former glorious democratic Made-In-USA ideals are now smeared by bankster frauds careening into tens of trillions of dollars, without any new banking regulations on Wall Street, in addition to the largest military empire expansion since the bloody sword-slashings of Alexander the Great’s robo-soldiers, along with “shelter-in-place” pseudo martial law restrictions brought about without precedence just after the Boston Marathon. How could two boys who grew up in America have done this evil deed, and they may or may not have been any more guilty, than the many Craft International security personnel that were also lavishly caught on camera by dozens of witnesses, with their backpacks missing on their shoulders after the explosions subsided? Twenty years of unfettered growth of the aerospace arms makers and traders, have damaged the American Dream, as have the satellite technology and microwave communications security systems firms, which are now permanently embedded deeply into nearly all facets of American industry and service jobs and activities. It is time for the disenfranchised of USA to brush aside lobbyists and try to restore some sense of democracy back into the Senate and House of Representatives, in new and innovative ‘Yankee Spring’ acts of protest, along the same lines and methods as advocated by LGBT and Arab Spring organizers.

    OCCUPY WALL STREET and “We Are the 99 Percent” civil and financial rights movements have already been nearly completely silenced in USA by police strategies and surveillance techniques. Shouldn’t we put our vehemence for reform back onto our own soil, where we understand the culture and traditions somewhat better? The Czech Republic has a balanced relationship with the USA, the EU, and with Russia, all three now trusted by them like a Holy Trinity. Let us ask a hypothetical question now: Would the same NGOs and western spokespersons here in Georgia warn the Czechs that the Czech government was in collusion with the Russians in suppressing human rights, because of a clash between Orthodox Christians and gay activists’ rights in the streets of central Prague? Shouldn’t the NGOs be equally if not more alarmist about prisoners’ rights? Have political prisoners’ rights become so mundane in Georgia that they will become inconsequential in comparison to LGBT activists’ rights? Last year during the LGBT rally here, the violence was less than this year, but there was still plenty of it, and there was no voice then, not even a peep, defending the tens of thousands of prisoners who were still wrongly imprisoned and staving off TB and rape on the inside of Georgian prison cells.

    Don’t you think it is time for NGOs here to set their priorities into some kind of order of importance? Let the local gays do it on their own, their own style of seeking attention to address their own requests and grievances, and let the majority of good priests here apply more corrective and coercive measures to their own bad apples. I give the Georgian people and intelligentsia and Church here, much more credit than the current tone of the western media. The question here in Georgia maybe should be, “Couldn’t the new government request the Church to put into their priesthood, ONLY university trained graduates of approved Orthodox seminaries?” I feel that the NGOs if they want to be so alarmist, should also focus on human rights abuses in Israel. Shouldn’t we all get equally alarmed as the western media, over the hostilities seen at the LGBT rally in Tbilisi, if such issues are so urgent, over the irony that in Israel we are not seeing huge throngs of minorities-rights protestors being gently protected,? Are the bulk of NGOs in Israel getting really worked up over the bulldozing down of homes of non-Jews, as much as the NGOs are getting worked up over LGBT altercations during an inflammatory Tbilisi IDAHOBIT rally?

    One should first ask– if they really are concerned and want to improve the living standards of Georgian gender minorities– what exactly are the numbers of battered and abused gays here in Georgia? Are their numbers more, or less, than battered wives statistics? Should we have a foreign NGO backed public parade of Battered Wives demanding justice against their Georgian husband beaters? Are the numbers of bashed gays here more or less than the proportion by population in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey and Dubai? In which land[s] should our western NGOs and democracy-building spokespersons endeavor to achieve sexual rights for more and more and more of the silent minorities of LGBTs? Should one condemn Israel for their bashings against their minority religions, as much as the Ivanishvili government and the Orthodox Church are taking heat for not protecting their sexual minorities and minority religions? Let’s hear this out immediately instead of making a huge mistake in over-publicizing an unclear foreign-imposed agenda that does not represent the majority of gays in Georgia. And if you disagree, show us all wrong with a survey and poll, of tens of thousands of gays here in Georgia, who incontrovertibly agree that they need access to larger gay parades in central Tbilisi, more frequently organized, along with some proof that such public activities increase their standard of living and civil security.

    In the last week I have read in the local and national media, and seen on YouTube numerous NGO and western self-appointed spokespersons of democracy-validating entities, alleging that Russia is THE evil shadow which is behind this recent homophobic outburst here in Tbilisi. As usual in Georgia, somebody helped during this recent LGBT rally, to congregate agitators into a knuckle-punch formation, with money handouts or free transportation or nice new protest T-shirts, using a number of busloads importing in from the regions, a legion of homophobic late teen-aged boys, joined in animosity by an ideological cluster-bomb of extremist homophobic priests. There was little mention in the western media at all about the presence of priests who were there in their black frocks standing around only to register their protest against too liberal and exhibitionist an LGBT rights demonstration– for their parishioners. These priests I refer to now were not advocating violence nor invectives. If there is a sinister shadow strategy afoot by Russia, to destabilize all former Soviet client states vis-à-vis angry Orthodox priests hostile to LGBT public rallies, it is time to let us hear from the multitudes of Georgian gays here that this suspicious idea holds true and that this conspiracy theory is as palpable a reality as the taste of the legendary large red ripe Georgian tomatoes, when held in one’s mouth in mid summer. Has this recent media tempest for the rights of sexual minorities, been created out of a web of western networks, and is it actually more bluster than it is fact? Is it merely more convenient than it is reformatory? Let us see.

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