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Armenian Diocese in Georgia: PRESS RELEASE

16-03-2005

The conflict surrounding the Armenian Church Norashen is gaining new momentum and the frontiers of trust, it seems, are being left far behind. After the attention it attracted in relation to the “fake tombstones with Georgian inscriptions”, which are still not taken away from the church’s yard, Georgian Church officials convincingly assured the Armenian Diocese that the Georgian Patriarchate had best intentions for a positive resolve of the Norashen question and that the actions of Father Tariel were very much his own.

However, just a few days later, Father Abgar, Deputy Head of the Armenian Diocese in Georgia, witnessed the undertaking of new works by the Georgian clergy and handymen in front of the Armenian Church Norashen (digging of holes, planting of trees etc.). Despite the earlier agreement, the appropriation efforts aimed at the Armenian Church of Norashen continue secretly, probably with the intention to put the Armenian Diocese in front of a fait accompli. The Georgian priest Tariel (the same who had destroyed famous frescoes from the Hovnatanyan school and Armenian khatshkars) stated: “the land is ours, hence the church is ours and we do what we want and what I have been told. Leave us in peace, you are getting on our nerves…”

Against the backdrop of the Norashen problem, the Armenian Diocese in Georgian is worried about a growing anti-Armenism in Georgia (where according to official figures from 1989 about 500.000 Armenians live), which finds expresses in the form of anti-Armenian propaganda in Georgian mass-media, such as in the Georgian Times of 24.02.2005: “Armenians do anything to undercut the formation of Georgia as a state… and this is why it is necessary to create a one-nation-state”, “if the Armenians had the material means, they would destroy our language”, “I don’t remember one single time, when Armenians did something good for Georgia”, “a Georgianised Armenian can never become a Georgian, he will always strive to power. The clearest example for this is the Georgian President himself”. The Diocese is furthermore worried about the continuous acts of vandalism that Armenian cemeteries are subjected to in Georgia. The century old cemetery of Vera, in Tbilisi, has been almost completely destroyed in the past 17 years. The graves of well known politicians, generals, professors and poets, who were not just Armenians but who played an important role in historical Georgia are being annihilated. And the latest horrendous news, reaching the Press Office, are from Dusheti (a provincial town in Georgia), where yet another Armenian cemetery has become the victim of acts of vandalism.

The Armenian Diocese in Georgia requests that acts of vandalism and offense to the dead be put an end to. It asks not to impede the fruitful dialogue between the Georgian patriarchate and the Armenian Katolikosate, which is undercut by the unqualified actions of Father Tariel, resulting in a negative impact on the century old, brotherly relationship between the two churches. The Diocese hopes to attract the attention of the international community to this situation.

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