A delegation of sixteen Georgian religious leaders has just returned from a five-day visit to Washington, DC. The visit was organised by the Center for Development and Democracy (CDD) in cooperation with the Information Center on NATO and EU, and funded by the British Embassy in Tbilisi.
The delegation included leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church together with leaders of Armenian, Catholic, and Muslim communities of Georgia.
The delegation attended an international conference focusing on the role of religion in democracy and anti-Western propaganda. The religious leaders also had the chance to meet with numerous US government officials.
Bishop Jacob of Gardabani and Martqopi commented that the visit had been successful in changing the participants’ perspectives on various topics. He also noted that the US is one of the restraining factors of Russia’s occupation of Georgia.
“America is the country that has never betrayed Georgia, whereas Russia has been at war with us for our aspiration to freedom for many years. Therefore America’s support is crucial for us. They saw that our church will not compromise with the opponent,” added the Bishop.
Archbishop Ioane of Rustavi and Marneuli stressed the importance to have clearer and wider coverage of events in the region and spreading information, in order for the Western world to overcome Russian propaganda.
With the majority of Georgian citizens being Orthodox Christian, the Church is the most trusted public institution in the country, as shown by various opinion polls. Initiatives that inform religious leaders on such issues are crucial.
Since late 2014, the CDD has organised various briefings and training sessions for Georgian Orthodox priests as well as for organisations affiliated with the patriarchate. The sessions highlight benefits of EU association for georgia. Sessions also focus on the history of EU-Georgia relations, mutual obligations under Georgia’s EU Association Agreement, and the relationship between EU states and religious organizations.