The Republican Party has condemned removal of minaret from a mosque in the village of Chela of Adigeni municipality and also criticized anti-minaret demonstration in Akhaltsikhe, as well as some senior Orthodox clerics for their remarks at that protest rally.
Although the Republican Party, chaired by parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, is a member of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, the party released on August 30 statement on developments surrounding removal of the minaret separately from its coalition partners.
The statement starts by saying that the minaret was built “illegally” without permits, “which required a reaction from the state.”
“But when the case concerns religion, the state should take into consideration delicate nature of the case and spare no effort to prevent confrontation on the religious grounds,” it reads. “Religious tolerance is more important and of greater public value than disassembling of any building, even if illegally [constructed]. For that reason the state should try to take such a decision, which would not insult believers’ religious feelings and which at the same time would enforce requirements set by the law.”
“The situation escalated again after the relevant state structures carried out relevant procedures and it was decided to return the minaret back to the village. In particular, this decision caused a protest of one part of citizens in Akhaltsikhe. Participants of the protest rally blocked the traffic; they were stating that they would not have allowed return of the minaret.”
“A protest rally of this kind with openly declared goal to violate the law, i.e. obstructing enforcement of a decision taken by the state, is unacceptable in itself and at the same time it’s simply shameful for our country, which has always justifiably been proud of centuries-old tradition of tolerance. It is especially disturbing that chairman of Akhaltsikhe Sakrebulo [local city council] was also participating in the rally.”
“We deem statements of political nature made by high-ranking clerics no less alarming; in particular the statements according to which they guarantee that the minaret will not be re-erected.”
“In Georgia the Church is separated from the state and relationship between the Church and the state is regulated by the constitutional agreement and laws. Like the state has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Church, the latter too has no right to assume functions of the state.”
“The Georgian Orthodox Church enjoys a huge authoritativeness and trust among the Georgian society, but it is only up to the law to define reasonability of specific construction.”
“The Georgian Republican Party realizes that it is a member of the ruling coalition and together with its political partners shares responsibility that the authorities bear. The public is waiting for concrete actions from the authorities and not just assessments. So the state agencies should definitely enforce decision taken in accordance with the law on the return of the minaret.”
“The Georgian Republican Party believes, that the state should always react strictly to any attempt of confrontation on the religious grounds no matter who is behind it, because religious tolerance, rights of religious minorities and respect of religious feelings of believers in general are values which represent not only our national tradition, but also one of the fundamental principles of modern Georgian statehood,” reads the statement.