Visit of the representative of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom
On September 28 - October 1, Catherine Cosman, Senior Policy Analyst of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom visited Georgia. Her areas of work include the countries of the former Soviet Union, East and Central Europe and Western Europe.
Catherine Cosman's main reason to visit Georgia was to participate in the conference Politics and Religion in Georgia and Azerbaijan, organized by the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD) in Tbilisi. Ms.Cosman made her presentation about current policy of religious freedom in Azerbaijan.
Ms.Cosman also met state institutions and religious organizations to inquire about the problems related to religious freedom in Georgia.
On September 29, Catherine Cosman met Maia Kvirikashvili, head of Division of Human Rights Protection of Prosecutor’s office of Georgia. The goal of the meeting was to obtain information about investigation of crimes committed on the grounds of religious intolerance and the state policy in this regard.
On the same day Ms.Cosman met the head of the State Agency for Religious Issues and several religious organizations invited by the Agency. According to the news published by the Agency, all religious representatives positively assessed the function and work of the Agency. It should be noted, that religious minority organizations that criticize the work of the Agency and the State’s religious policy were not invited to the meeting.
On October 1, Catherine Cosman together with the representatives of Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) met Tariel Nakaidze, the head of Georgian Muslims Union, Jambul Abuladze, Imam of Chela Mosque, Rusudan Gotsiridze, Bishop of Evangelical-Baptist Church and Lela Khonelidze, representative of Pentecostal Church in Georgia.
Among other issues related to freedom of religion, the following topics were discussed during the meeting: Persecution of Muslims during the last years, impediments to holding religious rituals, lack of effective investigation of crimes committed on the grounds of religious intolerance, implementation of the laws pertaining to hate crimes; discriminatory policy of the State, and particularly, problems regarding the establishment and functioning of the State Agency for Religious Issues; violation of religious neutrality, indoctrination and proselytism at public schools; obstacles to building houses of worship, among them, Batumi mosque issue and other topics.
TDI provided assistance to Ms.Cosman in organizing the meetings in Tbilisi.