Public Defender’s Recommendations concerning Challenges relating to Freedom of Religion and Religious Minorities
On September 24, 2020, the Public Defender of Georgia and the Council of Religions of the Public Defender of Georgia presented recommendations drawn up in 2020 concerning the challenges relating to freedom of religion and religious minorities. The event was moderated by the Head of the Tolerance Center, Beka Mindiashvili.
The recommendations address the state agencies and the media and cover the following issues:
- Legislative regulation of freedom of religion
- Initiative relating to the Law on Religion
- Discriminatory legislation
- Funding for religious organizations
- Intolerance-motivated crime
- Mandate of the State Agency for Religious Affairs
- Property issues
- Border crossing
- Education and media
In her welcoming speech, Nino Lomjaria, Public Defender of Georgia, briefly reviewed the activities of the Council of Religious Minorities, noting that since its establishment in 2005, the Council had made a significant contribution to the protection and strengthening of freedom of religion in the country. "It is the result of the active efforts of the Council of Religious Minorities and the Public Defender that today clergymen of all confessions can enter penitentiary institutions, without discrimination, to provide religious services to prisoners; The law on registration of religious organizations has become much more liberal; Some progress has been made in the direction of categorization and investigation of hate crimes; Progress is gradually being made in terms of controlling the use of hate speech in school textbooks and education system in general. As a result of the Council’s efforts, no norms restricting freedom of religion or belief have been reflected in the Constitution of Georgia.
Today, the Council has presented its third document since its foundation, which clearly describes the situation of freedom of religion and belief in the country and offers recommendations about the steps that should be additionally taken," - said the Public Defender.
Nino Lomjaria thanked the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Association for their support shown to the Tolerance Center and the Council on Religions over the years.
Laura Berger, Deputy Directorof USAID'sDemocracy, Governance, and Social DevelopmentOffice (USAID), spoke about the importance of cooperation with the Public Defender and the implementation of recommendations in the process of establishing a democratic and tolerant environment in the country.
Expert Mako Ghavtadze and Boris Charaia, pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spoke about the legislative framework, property rights and restitution, as well as the problems of border crossing for religious literature.
Expert Giorgi Gotsiridze and Guram Imerlishvili, pastor of the Faith Gospel Church, discussed anti-discrimination legislation and investigation of hate crimes.
Expert Nino Tsintsadze and Bishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, Rusudan Gotsiridze, spoke about the media and education.
Expert Tamta Mikeladze and Zaal Tkeshelashvili, pastor of the Evangelical Church of Georgia, presented the results of the study of the state policy on freedom of religion.
The event was supported by the Promoting Integration, Tolerance and Awareness (PITA) Programme, which is being carried out by the UN Association of Georgia (UNAG) with the financial support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).