Church in Tibilisi, Georgia, closes after hate group attacks on LGBTQ rights

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A CHURCH in Georgia has been forced to cancel services for fear of attacks by hate groups against LGBTQ rights.

The American Episcopal Church of St Nino’s Mission in Tbilisi is one of only two churches in Georgia that welcome LGBTQ people, and the only church to offer blessings for same-sex relationships.

Violent clashes erupted in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, last week, when demonstrators took to the streets to demonstrate against a planned pride march. Tbilisi Pride offices were attacked, rainbow flags were destroyed and more than 50 people were assaulted, most of them journalists, although a member of St Nino’s congregation was also attacked. A television cameraman later died of his injuries.

A silent rally the next day in protest was also subjected to violent attacks by far-right groups.

A member of the congregation, Nino Bajelidze, said: “On July 5, when hate groups led by [the] The Georgian Orthodox Church had [an] anti-gay protest, they beat 53 journalists and cameramen; also that day our active parishioner was beaten because his friend was wearing pink pants.

“Last Sunday we couldn’t [a] church service because we are afraid of hate groups. We plan not to meet at church the following Sunday. We hope and ask for your prayers. “

The Orthodox Church had called on its supporters to come together before the march to publicly pray against it. He had demanded the cancellation of the march, saying it “contains signs of provocation, conflicts with socially recognized moral standards and aims to legalize serious sin.”

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili also spoke out against the march, calling it “unacceptable to a large part of Georgian society”.

The St Nino mission meets in the Evangelical Baptist Church in the Georgia Cathedral of Peace, where it is regularly visited by a priest. It became an official mission of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches of Europe in 2019. A secular cult leader, Thoma Lipartiani, who is involved in the pride of Tbilisi, said he did not feel safe for him. to go out and that the police had advised him to cancel the services.

The bishop in charge of the convocation, the very Reverend Mark Edington, told the episcopal press service that he had contacted the United States ambassador in Tbilisi and had received “a good answer”, and that he and the The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Monsignor Michael Curry, wrote a letter to St Nino’s “to let them know that the Church is on their side”.

Bishop Edington said his aim was to support the congregation without drawing more attention to it in Tbilisi, which could make them even more vulnerable; but he said that the wider Episcopal Church should know about St Nino and what was happening to them.

“They are truly a remarkable and faithful group of people,” said Bishop Edington. “I’m glad they’re here.


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