Jehovists’ congress foiled in Georgia

Interfax, May 4, 2003

TBILISI. May 4 (Interfax) – More than one hundred Christians on Sunday foiled a congress of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the village of Ortasheni in Georgia’s Gori district. All approaches to the village were blocked.

   Earlier, the local authorities warned the Jehovah Witnesses about possible consequences of the congress, representatives of the religion told the press.

   Parliamentary deputy Guram Sharadze, known for his religious intolerance, arrived at the village and demanded at a spontaneous rally that the activities of the Jehovah Witnesses be banned. He also blamed Georgia’s human rights organizations for patronizing the religious group.

   The Gori district police have told Interfax that a police squad was sent to the village to maintain order and prevent incidents.

   Religious intolerance is one of the most painful issues for the Georgian leadership. The many pogroms, the burning of religious literature and attacks on members of religious organizations, that have occurred in Georgia have been sharply criticized by the Council of Europe and the U.S. administration.

   Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze recently told the government that the U.S. had threatened to cut short financial aid to Georgia over the religious intolerance expressed in the country.

   A month ago, Shevardnadze demonstratively attended a service at a Baptist church in Tbilisi which was earlier ravaged by a crowd on January 24.

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