By the Grace of Allah Almighty, Ahmadiyyah Muslim Jamaat in Georgia, a recently established community, already made great steps in establishing itself as a full fledged and integrated member of the religious milieu in Georgia. On the 25th of November 2018. AMJ Georgia organized a National Peace Symposium bringing together the leaders of all major religions in an atmosphere of peaceful dialogue and sharing of mutual values and ideas.
Georgia is a country of great beauty, awe inspiring landscape and an equally interesting but harmonious religious landscape. Numbering about 5 million people, Georgia’s population is mostly Orthodox Christian (83% ) second largest religion being Muslims (11%), followed by Armenian Apostolic (3%) and others (Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Yazidi, Protestant, Jewish, constituting a total of 1,2% of population), lastly there is 0,5% people that describe themselves as atheists, indicating that Georgia is a predominantly a religious country.
It took AMJ Croatia members 9 hours to reach Tbilisi in 04:00 AM, 23th of November. After a long journey, Croatian team was welcomed and accommodated by mr. Jawad Butt, a missionary and the president of AMJ Georgia, whose hospitality made every day in Georgia as enjoyable and productive as possible. Immediately one surprising thing was an unexpectedly temperate climate. After a short sleep break and a plentiful breakfast, Croatian team sprang into action, visiting the office of AMJ Georgia where they were warmly greeted by their AMJ Georgia brothers. AMJ Croatia brought books as gifts, and received interesting books in return which will be included in our library. After the exchange of gifts Croatian team went with the president of AMJ Georgia to explore the surroundings. Located in the Vake region, a diplomatic district of Tbilisi, there was a lot to explore in the vicinity of the office. Afterwards both teams set out to explore the outlying regions, one trip was especially symbolic, the trip to the Gudauri ski-resort, the place where the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument was built, which was unfortunately covered by snow.
Tomorrow on 24th of November, one day before the National Peace Symposium, brothers from other AMJs gathered and greeted each other. Alongside Croatia, there was a great number of AMJ Germany brothers, also accompanied by AMJ brothers from Lithuania, Latvia and Oman who dedicated their maximum effort to make this event a success. After a warm greeting, everyone set out to tour Tbilisi with the help of a good friend of the AMJ Georgia and a tour guide Misha Elizbarashvili. Touring the general city landmarks, brothers headed to the famous Jvari monastery and afterwards visited the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The final points of the tour were the Chronicle of Georgia (The Tbilisi Stonehenge) and the hilltop overlooking the city. Later that day all brothers gathered in the office of AMJ Georgia to have a meeting with Malkhaz Songulashvili, the Archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, after a cordial discussion on religious and social matters, the Archbishop parted with us and received gifts.
National Peace Symposium, an inter-faith dialogue event organized by AMJ Georgia, was held on 26th November, starting from 18:00 hours. Earlier that day, in front of the hotel on the Freedom Square there were massive protests against the Saakashvili’s possible return if the candidate supported by him wins, but that did not disrupt the general atmosphere of peace and tolerance that pervaded the event. Moreover, in juxtaposition with the protests, the guests admitted that the Peace Symposium reassured them that bright future is indeed ahead if more events like this (that is events that promote tolerance, deliberation and dialogue) are organized.
Every organizational aspect was carefully planned. With over 200 participants and more of them expected, hosting the event was expected to be an organizational challenge. However, this task was not a match for a dedicated core of AMJ members. From registration, greetings and providing guests with translation devices and coordinating the order of seating, everything was done swiftly and precisely, a remarkable feat considering that all AMJ brothers (including Croatia in a supportive role) were volunteers.
The event hosted members of many religious and ethnic communities in Georgia, members of the press and distinguished personalities from Georgian political, cultural and social life; successfully bringing them together in a fruitful exchange of ideas and goodwill.
Main speakers of the event were Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze of the Evangelical‐Baptist Church of Georgia, the first female bishop in Georgia and a prominent human rights activist; Mr. Darispan Prasher, representative of a small but very active Hindu community in Georgia; Jean‐Marie Ehouzou, Permanent Observer of African Union at UN Geneva; Avimelech Rosenblat, chief rabbi of the Georgian Jewish community; and Abdullah Wagishauser, the Ameer of AMJ Germany. In their speeches they all brushed upon binding similarities between religions, noting that mercy, compassion, tolerance and other moral qualities represent the divine attributes one should follow, and pointing out that our differences can enrich us.
After the programe, guests gathered in the entrance hall for refreshments and food, getting further acquainted with each other and with the members of the Ahmadiyyah community.
Overall the Peace Symposium was a tremendous success, bringing together various groups and religious communities in Georgia, it serves as a template of how a deliberative process between religions should look like, and how other should also follow suit.
As for AMJ Croatia, this proved to be a valuable experience, and one that will definitely be followed.