Discussion – Religion and Human Rights
Salome Achba, Religiebi.info
Interrelation between religious dogmas and fundamental human rights; the role of religion, as institutional system, in the legitimacy of governments; problems in Georgian secularization – these were topics of public discussion hosted by the organization Identity on March 15.
The main speakers of the discussion were head of Center of Tolerance within the Public Defender’s Office Beka Mindiashvili, philologist, doctor of philological science Zaza Shatirishvili and lawyer Tamar Gurchiani.
Beka Mindiashvili from Center of Tolerance started discussion with the Interrelation between fundamental human rights and religion. He noted that religion and fundamental human rights are not opposite notions; moreover, religion is original source of fundamental human rights: “Religious doctrine is basis for the Human Rights Conception. The Conception about basic human rights relies on principles – equality and freedom. I think, all major religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism rely on these two principles. However, we can observe some differences in this direction too. I believe that not only human rights, but even modern understanding of liberalism and democracy somehow take source from- religious doctrines.”
As for religious texts in relation with human rights, Beka Mindiashvili thinks all religious texts might become source of both tolerance and intolerance considering their interpretation by concrete people. “You can see examples of intolerance in the Old Testament, when people were killed in the name of god, and examples of extreme tolerance. The same can be said about Koran and many other religious texts. Any of them can become source of kindness and self-sacrifice for person as well as source of extremism. The point is interpretation of the religious doctrines by concrete person. So, I think it is the issue of personal decision and not of any institution.”
What are the interrelation between religion – as an institution and fundamental human rights in Georgia nowadays?! Beka Mindiashvili stated that unlike us, religious unions of the West had to seek relevant positions with the modern life. On the one hand it was result of increased secularization wave in the XIX Century and on the other hand liberation of culture, media and people from the guardianship of the Church.
Beka Mindiashvili added that real picture in our country is completely different. “In 1961, Catholic Church launched process of enormous innovation and one of the main discussion topics then was – whether people are equal before the Lord regardless their religious faith. Finally, the Catholic Church passed doctrine about human dignities, which stated that everybody is equal before the God and anybody shall be free in the choice of religion. Not a single institution had right to interfere in this issue. Unlike us, religious groups in the West had to seek relevant positions for the modern life. We should remember the situation before 2004-2005 when Georgia was good example of persecution of religious minorities. I think, the Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church made very significant and historical decision with regard to this problem on July 11, 2011 and declared that they acknowledge freedom of religion and equality of all persons and religious unions before the law. I hope, this declaration will become basis for more adequate and clear positions of the Orthodox Church with regard to other religious confessions in future.”
Secularization problem was also raised during the discussion in the office of Identity. What is the best model of interrelation between the state and religious institution?
Lawyer Tamar Gurchiani spoke about these issues in her speech and noted that she believes the best model for interrelation between state and religious institution is so-called “deaf wall” between them. “I think the best model is “deaf wall” between the religious institution and the state; it is US model. I think Georgia is very far from this position. I, Christian citizen of Georgia, do not like absence of “deaf wall” between the state and religious institution. I do not like current situation in Georgia. I do not like when on the one hand the law guarantees freedom of belief and religion, and on the other hand, the Constitutional Agreement between the state and church grants particular status to the Orthodox Church. Current interrelation between the church and state is unfortunately far from the ideal model, the model when everybody will receive what they deserve.”
Doctor of Philological Science Zaza Shatirishvili spoke about legitimacy of the government and noted that if the God was source of legitimacy in the ancient time, now people became source of their legitimacy. “Before French Revolution, or before the new states appeared, the government received legitimacy from the God; the Church was the institution which executed the legitimacy with the ritual that is called “blessing”. After the revolution, people became source of legitimacy instead the God. If the King was sovereign in the history, later on people had this sovereignty. Modern legitimacy invisibly relies on old legitimacy and is quasi-monarchist.”
Beka Mindiashvili from the Center of Tolerance said if we review our recent history, we will see that ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze received legitimacy not from the people but from religious institution. “After Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s coup, Eduard Shevardnadze’s government received legitimacy from two sources. They were: kneeled down people, [as Shevardnadze’s stated] and the Patriarch of Georgia. Let us recall Shevardnadze’s trick to reinforce its sovereignty, when he rejected leadership of Georgia and national television was showing kneeled down people, who were begging him to stay and rule the country; on the other hand – Patriarch of Georgia appealed to the population. “I, as a spiritual leader of Georgia, declare that Eduard Shevardnadze is political leader of Georgia.” Shevardnadze was fully aware that religious nationalism had increased during the governance of his predecessor and it could assist him to become a political leader.”
As for the interrelation between the current government of Georgia and religious institution, Beka Mindiashvili said that after the Rose Revolution the government tried to maintain maximum distance from the Church. They even arrested extremist clergyman Basil Mkalavlishvili. Besides that, 17 more people were arrested for the crimes committed on religious motives in 2004-2007. Nine of them were sent to prison. Beka Mindiashvili added that problem appeared during the election years.
“In 2008-2010 about forty applications were submitted to the Public Defender’s Office where people complained about their breached rights due to religious discrimination. Those facts are still uninvestigated. However, we should underline that the government has taken very significant steps to eradicate religious discrimination, particularly on the legislative level,” Beka Mindiashvili said and added that if we really want to live in democratic, liberal state, there must be maximum distance between the state and religious institution.
იმათი უფლებები, რომლებიც არც ერთ რელიგიას არ აღიარებენ, საერთოდ არ განიხილება. თანაც, თურმე"ადამიანის უფლებების კონცეფციას რელიგიური მოძღვრებები უდევს საფუძვლად". მით უარესი "ადამიანის უფლებების კონცეფციისათვის" - ეს ჩემის აზრით. აი, სახალხო დამცველის ოფისთან არსებული ტოლერანტობის ცენტრს კი ადამიანის უფლებები გამოჰყავს რელიგიური მოძღვრებებიდან!!! ასეთ პირობებში არაა გასაკვირი, რომ რელიგია საქართველოში მეტად აგრესიულ ძალად იქცა!!! ისეთ აგრესიულ ძალად, რომ აშკარად მის წინააღმდეგ ეს ზემოთხსენებული ცენტრიც ვერ გამოდის, სიტყვას ვერ ამბობს!
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