Pre-Election Meetings between Religious Organizations and Political Parties
Throughout September 14-21, few weeks before the 2016 parliamentary elections in Georgia Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) with the support of USAID’s "Promoting Integration, Tolerance and Awareness Program [PITA], implemented by UNAG, organized round table meetings between religious organizations and main political parties participating in upcoming elections.
Meetings were held separately from each other with the following political parties: Free Democrats (Irakli Alasania, Mikheil Avakiani, Beniamin Kasimov), Republican Party of Georgia (Tamar Kordzaia and David Zurabishvili), United National Movement (Giorgi Tugushi, Sergo Ratiani, Sergi Kapanadze,), Georgian Dream (Tamar Chugoshvili, Sopho Katsarava), Paata Burchuladze – State for People (Iago Khvichia, Toresa Mossy, Vakhtang Megrelishvili).
Political parties presented their visions to the religious organizations about freedom of religion in Georgia and the possible ways for solving existing problems.
During discussions among other issues related to freedom of religion, the following topics were discussed: The rise of offences and crimes committed on the ground of religious intolerance and lack of effective investigation, the State policy regarding religious freedom - specifically the problems pertaining functioning of the State Agency of Religious Issues, violation of the principle of religious neutrality and religious indoctrination by Orthodox priests, teachers and academic staff at public educational institutions, persecution and discrimination of Muslims, impediments in terms of obtaining permission for the construction of houses of worship (especially, barriers to build a mosque in Batumi), compensation of damages inflicted by the Soviet Union on religious communities, restitution of the property confiscated during the Soviet times and their transfer into the ownership of religious minorities, intervention of the State into autonomy of religious institutions, the state policy and practice regarding the funding of religious organizations in Georgia, privileges of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the sphere of tax and customs law, and the issues of the institutional separation between the state and religion.
Meetings in such kind of format between religious organizations and political parties in Georgia were organized for the first time.