Orthodox church in Georgia

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Othodox Church in Georgia

Why were women with nettles and priests with stools allowed to attack LGTBI activists? asks Onnik Krikorian.

Recent events in Georgian capital Tbilisi are very worrying for many people who hoped traditionalists would change their intolerant opinions.

The clash between old and new ideas was very clear at an event for the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) in May. 20,000 people disrupted the event with a demonstration.

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Stinging prejudice. Orthodox women say they will hit gays with nettles. (Onnik Krikorian)

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili made a statement that lesbians and gays ‘have the same rights as any other social group’. But Patriarch Ilia II, the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) event should be banned. He said homosexuality is ‘a disease’.

Violence started when the 50 LGBT activists at the IDAHO event had to run away after the Orthodox demonstraters broke through barriers. There was little or no police resistance.

It was like a medieval witch-hunt. There were elderly women trying to hit homosexuals with stinging nettles. And priests wooden stools trying to hit and smash anyone or anything they could find.

Only a few people were arrested, including two priests. But human rights groups and local civil society organizations are worried that the government cannot, or does not want to, control the power of the Church.

In the two decades since independence, it seems the power and influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church has increased. Some activists are saying that Georgia is like a theocracy. LGBT groups are already reporting many more cases of harassment and assault.

But there will be more problems and confrontation: parliament wants to modernize and is ready to discuss making cannabis use no longer criminal.

The Church and the government will fight again, as the country prepares for a tense presidential election in October.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/sections/agenda/2013/07/01/georgia-church-lgbt/