Religion in Georgia (country)


Religion in Georgia (country)

The wide variety of peoples inhabiting Georgia has meant a correspondingly rich array of active religions. Today most of the population in Georgia practices Orthodox Christianity, primarily the Georgian Orthodox Church. Of these (82%), around 2% follow the Russian Orthodox Church. Around 3.9% of the population follow the Armenian Church, almost all of which are ethnic Armenians. According to the CIA factbook, Muslims make up 9.9% of the population, [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gg.html CIA - The World Factbook - Georgia ] ] and are mainly found in the Adjara and Kvemo Kartli regions and as a sizeable minority in Tbilisi. Roman Catholics make up around 0.8% of the population and are mainly found in the south of Georgia and a small number in Tbilisi. There is also a sizeable Jewish Community in Tbilisi served by two synagogues.

Georgia has a long history of religious harmony within its borders despite the historical conflicts with the surrounding nations. Different religious minorities have lived in Georgia for thousands of years and religious discrimination is virtually unknown in the country. [Spilling, Michael. Georgia (Cultures of the world). 1997] Jewish communities exist throughout the country, with major concentrations in the two largest cities, Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Azerbaijani groups have practiced Islam in Georgia for centuries, as have Ajarians and some of the Abkhazians concentrated in their respective autonomous republics. The Armenian Apostolic Church, whose doctrine differs in some ways from that of Georgian Orthodoxy, has autocephalous status.

Christianity

Christianity, first preached by the Apostles Simon and Andrew in the first century, became the state religion of Kartli (Iberia) in 327, making Georgia the second oldest Christian country after Armenia. [The Church Triumphant: A History of Christianity Up to 1300, E. Glenn Hinson, p 223] [Georgian Reader, George Hewitt, p. xii] [Ethiopia, the Unknown Land: A Cultural and Historical Guide, by Stuart Munro-Hay, p. 234] [ Prayers from the East: Traditions of Eastern Christianity, Richard Marsh, p. 3] The final conversion of Georgia to Christianity in 327 is credited to St. Nino of Cappadocia. She was the only daughter of pious and noble parents, the Roman general Zabulon, a relative of the great martyr St. George, and Susanna, sister of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. [http://stnina.ca/stnina_life.html] The Georgian Orthodox Church, originally part of the Church of Antioch, gained its autocephaly in the 5th century during the reign of Vakhtang Gorgasali, and the Bible was also translated into Georgian in the 5th century. Notably, the oldest example of Georgian writing is an asomtavruli inscription in a church in Bethlehem from AD 430. The Georgians' new faith, which replaced Greek pagan and Zoroastrian beliefs, was to place them permanently on the front line of conflict between the Islamic and Christian worlds. As was true elsewhere, the Christian church in Georgia was crucial to the development of a written language, and most of the earliest written works were religious texts. After Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire, the Russian Orthodox Church took over the Georgian church in 1811. The colorful frescoes and wall paintings typical of Georgian cathedrals were whitewashed by the Russian occupiers.

The Georgian church regained its autonomy only when Russian rule ended in 1918. Neither the Georgian Menshevik government nor the Bolshevik regime that followed considered revitalization of the Georgian church an important goal, however. Soviet rule brought severe purges of the Georgian church hierarchy and constant repression of Orthodox worship. As elsewhere in the Soviet Union, many churches were destroyed or converted into secular buildings. This history of repression encouraged the incorporation of religious identity into the strong nationalist movement in twentieth-century Georgia and the quest of Georgians for religious expression outside the official, governmentcontrolled church. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, opposition leaders, especially Zviad Gamsakhurdia, criticized corruption in the church hierarchy. When Ilia II became the patriarch (catholicos) of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the late 1970s, he brought order and a new morality to church affairs, and Georgian Orthodoxy experienced a revival. In 1988 Moscow permitted the patriarch to begin consecrating and reopening closed churches, and a large-scale restoration process began.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, known as the burial place of Christ's mantle, which was brought to Mtskheta after the crucifixion by Elias, a Georgian Jew from Iberia, is the first Georgian church. [Dowling, T.E. Sketches of Georgian Church History] It is notable that Georgia falls under the patronage of the Virgin Mary—according to Saint Stefan, when the Apostles cast lots to determine in which country God desired each of them to preach the Gospel, the destiny of the mother of God was to preach in Iberia. [ [http://www.stnina.org/stnina/life/apostle The Life of St. Nina - Equal to the Apostles | The St. Nina Quarterly ] ]

Jacques de Vitry and Sir John Maundeville stated that Georgians are called "Georgian" because they especially revere and venerate St. George, and that when they go on pilgrimage to the Lord's Sepulchre, they march into the Holy City with banners displayed, and without paying tribute to anyone. [ [http://www.georgianweb.com/religion/stnino.html St. Nino And The Conversion Of Georgia ] ]

Islam

Islam in Georgia was introduced in 645 A.D. when an army sent by the Second Caliph of Islam, Umar, conquered Eastern Georgia and established Muslim rule in Tbilisi. Muslims today constitute 9.9%, or 463,062, of the Georgian population. There are two major Muslim groups in Georgia. The Georgian ethnic Muslims are Sunni Hanafi and are concentrated in Autonomous Republic of Adjara of Georgia bordering Turkey. The ethnic Azerbaijani Muslims are Shia and are concentrated along the border with Armenia.

Judaism

There is a small Jewish Community in Georgia (3541 according to the 2002 census [2002 population census, [http://www.statistics.ge/_files/english/census/2002/Religious%20beliefs.pdf Population by Religious Beliefs] ] ). Most of Georgia's Jews live in Tbilisi and are served by its two synagogues.

Religious freedom

The Georgian Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Citizens generally do not interfere with traditional religious groups; however, there have been reports of violence and discrimination against nontraditional religious groups.

ee also

* Religion in Abkhazia

References


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