I post this excerpt with the caveat that the BBC has a well known bias against traditional Christianity (see here). This is not news to UK Christian bodies who have complained for years nor is it a surprise to the BBC itself as its management has acknowledged a progressive bias only a few months ago. Note the statement that homosexuality is not "understood" in Georgia. The common thinking is that an informed, enlightened mind given all the "facts" will come to a logical conclusion of acceptance.
(BBC) - When several dozen Georgian Orthodox priests led tens of thousands of people on a violent attack against a small group of gay rights activists in Tbilisi earlier this year, much of the rest of the country was horrified, writes journalist Paul Rimple, who has been based in the country for 10 years.Complete article here.
Georgians pride themselves on their reputation for being hospitable and tolerant, and most consider themselves Christian.
While the notion of homosexuality is not widely understood or accepted in this deeply traditional Caucasus nation, most Georgians were appalled by the scenes that unfolded in Tbilisi on 17 May.
And yet, what happened clearly illustrates the importance of the Church in Georgia.
Georgia was an early adopter of Christianity making it a state religion in 337AD. Georgians maintained their faith over the centuries despite the waves of invading hordes, including the armies of Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane.
Although the Soviets permitted religion to be practised, its reach was severely limited. In 1917, there were 2,455 working churches in Georgia, but by the mid-1980s there were only 80, along with a few monasteries and a seminary.
"During communism, the church was outdated, something for old ladies," says political analyst Ghia Nodia.
That attitude quickly changed after independence in 1991, when the elected president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, espoused a philosophy of ethnic nationalism, which the Church embraced.
"During the (Gamsakhurdia) national movement, the concept that real Georgians are Orthodox Christians spread really fast," Mr Nodia says. Not to be forgotten, the Georgian Church had become Russified over time. Georgian rubrics and chant were slowly becoming more and more Russian and much of the wonderful Georgian chant patrimony was being lost (see here).
Over 80% of Georgia's 4.5 million people say they belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church, however, experts claim only about 15% - 25% actively participate in rituals. Those numbers are better than other groups by quite a bit. Anglicans attendance is only 6% and has been dropping steadily for decades (see here).
Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church remains the most trusted institution in Georgia. In a February survey carried out by the Caucasus Resource Research Center (CRRC), 95% of respondents had a favourable opinion of its work.
Beka Mindiashvili, a former theologian who is now head of the Tolerance Center at the public defender's office, attributes such high confidence in the Church to the 80-year-old Patriarch, Ilia II...