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Expression of concern on rights of minority churches in Georgia

06 February 2003

Letter to H.E. Mr Eduard Shevardnadze, President of the Republic Georgia, 6 February,

Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches has been informed about the violent attacks
perpetrated against those peacefully gathering to mark the Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity in the Central Baptist Church in Tbilisi on 24 January.

The World Council of Churches vigorously denounces this unacceptable and
criminal action of intolerance which misuses the name of religion, and appeals to
the Georgian authorities to ensure that the necessary actions are taken to bring
those responsible to justice.

Our appeal is strengthened by the knowledge that this is not the first attack carried
out by the extremist group led by the defrocked priest Basil Mkalavishvili against
representatives of minority churches in Georgia in recent years. The seeming impunity
of this extremist and violent group undermines the fragile inter-church relations
in the country and negatively impacts Georgia's reputation as a democratic country
upholding international standards of human rights and the rule of law.

The WCC underlines the fact that those responsible for this action have been
excluded from membership of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and their actions
have been denounced by all the main Christian churches in Georgia, including
the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches.

The WCC will continue to support and encourage all efforts in the region
which promote tolerance and understanding among religious and ethnic communities
during this time of uncertainty and insecurity which is affecting much of
the Caucasus region.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter.

Respectfully yours,

Peter Weiderud