ePress.am — In Dec. 2009, His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, sent a letter to the US Ambassador to Armenia addressed to US President Barack Obama regarding the issues concerning ethnic and religious minorities in the Republic of Georgia, according to a Wikileaks cable released Aug. 26, 2011.
In the letter, His Holiness Karekin II states that he wishes to bring to Obama’s attention the “unacceptable situation” regarding the status of religious minorities in Georgia, noting that the situation has worsened since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“As head of the Armenian Church, our unfortunate experience over the past two decades leads us to conclude that nothing in the religious sphere within Georgia has changed for the better since the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the contrary, religious life in the Republic of Georgia today “except within the Georgian Orthodox Church” is more restricted, repressed and intolerant for ethnic and religious minorities.
“After numerous years of effort and countless unsuccessful attempts to work with the Georgian government and the
Georgian Orthodox Church to regulate the Armenian Church diocese and communities in Georgia, we are forced to formally bring to your attention the unresolved issues regarding: 1) the lack of legal status for religious minorities in Georgia; and 2) the Georgian government’s refusal to return church buildings and church properties. We require your decisive assistance to compel the Georgian authorities to live up to their international obligations, among which are the fostering of an environment where all Christian churches, as well as religious organizations of other faiths, can operate normally and have their human rights respected and protected,” the letter reads.
The Armenian Catholicos then cites an example of an Armenian church in Georgia that collapsed due to neglect. “The most recent example of the Georgian government’s indifference and wanton neglect resulted in the collapse two weeks ago of the historic St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church (built in 1356) in Tbilisi, Georgia; which is the second church we have lost in this manner. This has caused great indignation among our people and Church.”
His Holiness Karekin II ends the letter by expressing hope that the US government “will implement the necessary steps to positively affect this unacceptable situation.”
Note, in Jul. 2011, the Georgian parliament approved amendments to the Civil Code that conferred legal status to religious groups in the country.