TBILISI, DFWatch–The government in Georgia will finance four traditional religious confessions besides the Orthodox Church. Non-traditional religions will not receive financing.
Until now, the Orthodox Church has received financing from the state, the argument being that the majority of the Georgian population are Orthodox and it is the country’s historical and traditional religion, representatives of other religions have protested against this.
During a government session on Monday, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said that the government plans to change this policy.
“Lately, I have heard that our government is pressuring people frequently on religious grounds. This is not true,” he said, adding that the situation has not become worse, but improved.
Gharibashvili said the government respects all religions equally, and to prove it has decided to allocate financing for four religions: Muslims, Gregorian, Catholic and Judaism.
The prime minister did not specify any amount, but said the money will be distributed equally to all four.
Minister of Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili said about 4.5 million lari (USD 2.5 million) will be allocated to religious groups.
All the four religions mentioned are ones with which Georgia has historical ties. Representatives of other religions than those are mainly small groups established after Georgia became independent in 1991. They will not be financed by the government. One of them is Jehova’s Witnesses, who have been attacked and harassed in recent years.
The law in Georgia does not require the government to finance any religions, not even the Orthodox Church.
Ucha Nanuashvili, Public Defender, said on Monday that the issue of financing religions should be discussed in order to take everyone’s interests into account. He said representatives of all religious groups and organizations should be involved in this process.
“Our position is that no-one should be discriminated against,” he said, adding that there should be created a model for handling the issue.