The NYT reports that Georgian Orthodox priests helped lead the mob of 20,000 people that violently attacked a small group of gay rights protesters in the capital of Tbilisi on Friday.
What’s worse, a bishop in the church, Iakob Iakobashvili, who helped organize the counter-protests, refused to condemn the violence by his own priests.
You need to see the video of the mob of 20,000 to fully appreciate this:
I’m an orthodox Christian. Greek Orthodox. We’re part of the larger umbrella of faiths that make up the the Eastern Orthodox faith (which includes Russian Orthodox). And to the notion that a priest would lead a violent mob, and then violently attack innocent people himself, is simply abominable.
And just as bad, the Georgian government appears to be nothing about the attack, even though there’s video – lots of video in fact, of the attackers. They’re trying to tell us that the government and the church don’t know who these people in the video are – really? In fact, they aren’t even trying to find out, according to the NYT story (“there are few signs that the investigation is moving forward”).
Here’s Bishop Iakobashvili refusing to condemn the violence:
“When there are so many people, it is difficult to speak only about Christianity and morals,” said the bishop, Iakob Iakobashvili, in his Sunday sermon in Tbilisi. “Many were not able to overcome their nature and saw enemies in the others, said bad words and punched them. I was told clergymen were among them. I am not able to either condemn or justify them. They are also humans.”
Yes, according to the Georgian Orthodox Church it’s only human to violently attack people because they’re gay.
Of course, the larger responsibility lies with the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, and with Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Ilia and Ivanishvili need to decide if they want Georgia to be looked upon as a banana republic or as a truly free successor to the hell-hole that the Soviet Union made it for 70 years.
Ironically, Georgia thinks it’s going to become a member of both NATO and the European Union. While NATO might accept a banana republic like Georgia because of its strategic proximity to Middle Eastern hotspots, good luck with the EU. The Europeans don’t tolerate hateful bigots nearly as much as we Americans do. And if Georgia can’t even handle prosecuting violent mobs who don’t respect the rights of minorities, how does Georgia think it’s going to fit into Europe, which per se is an amalgam of multiple races, ethnicities and cultures?
Georgia is also working on a Free Trade Agreement with the US, so that we can ostensibly help them more effectively oppress their own people.
If Patriarch Ilia II, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, and President Mikheil Saakashvili don’t immediately condemn the violence and prosecute the men and priests behind it, then people should start organizing to cut foreign aid to Georgia (which has ranged from $95m/yr to $420m/yr over the past several years), and more generally stop Georgia’s bid for NATO, EU integration, and free trade in its tracks.
It’s not clear why NATO or the EU would want to deal with such a violence-prone and clearly clearly not-ready-for-prime-time country as Georgia.
TAKE ACTION PLEASE
If Georgia wants to mess with the gays, then let’s bring the gays to Georgia. Keep in mind that Georgia really wants that free trade deal with the US, and they want NATO and EU membership, so make sure to hit on those points when you contact them. Also, their government Web site makes clear that the Georgians are trying to dispel the notion that Georgia is a dangerous place. And it clearly is, if mob violence is encouraged by the church and overlooked by the state. No one should be visiting or doing business in such a dangerous country.
And feel free to send a note to the Georgian Embassy in Washington, DC, their UN mission, and their EU mission: