TBILISI — About 50 people physically attacked priests at an Armenian Church in Tbilisi on Saturday.
The Armenian Orthodox Church says the pre-planned attack was motivated by religious and ethnic prejudice, but Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs treats the incident as normal crime not related to discrimination.
According to the Diocese of the Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC), July 19, there was an organized attack on Surb Etchmiadzin Church in Tbilisi, describing the altercation and subsequent violence against Armenian clerics, Diocese employees and a group of Armenians in the yard of the Church in the Georgian capital as a ‘pre-planned attack’ committed on the grounds of ‘ethnic and religious hatred’.
The Church’s statements says a provocation took place at about 16:00. A woman was trying to drive her car out of the area adjacent to the church, but was unsuccessful and started to express dissatisfaction towards the cleric at the Armenian Church as if his car was blocking the way for her own to car in the parking area.
At that moment, two ‘aggressively disposed’ men approached and helped to get the car out. The cleric entered the administrative building of the Armenian Church.The altercation was followed by a larger fight two hours later after one of the men called about 50 others.
Some of the men were reportedly armed with cold weapons as they approached the church and got into a scuffle with the clerics and employees of the diocese, all the time verbally insulting Armenians. People attending a Christening ceremony inside the church came out into the yard and the men attacked them, too.
“Women and children, shocked by what they had seen, hid in the church,” the statement reads. “We must note that a group of nicely dressed people were watching the incident.”
As a result of the attack, clerics and employees of the Armenian Diocese got physical injuries. One of the men tore a cross off one priest and took it with him.
The Armenian Church called on law-enforcement bodies to thoroughly investigate what happened on Saturday as a crime committed on ethnic and religious grounds.
“To a certain degree, this incident is a result of anti-Armenian campaign pursued by some of the Media sources, and sadly, by some of the representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church. We call on the Media to refrain from spreading the anti-Armenian sentiments in society. We call on the Supreme Hierarchs of the Georgian Orthodox Church to publicly condemn any actions motivated by the ethnic and religious hatred and to preach the Christian kindness and love”. The statement read.
Meanwhile, the Mother See of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Echmiadzin issued a separate statement on Monday, insisting that the actions of the men who attacked the Armenian church in Tbilisi “incited ethnic hatred and religious intolerance”.
“This provocative infringement is a regrettable consequence of anti-Armenian sentiments being spread by different organizations and individuals in Georgia, including by certain Georgian clerics,” the AAC said, stressing that such ‘manifestations of extremism’ contradict “the spirit of friendly relations” between the Armenian and Georgian peoples.
“The Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin expects the Georgian authorities to bring all those who committed the infringement upon the Armenian Church to responsibility and to ensure the security and normal life for the Armenian Church and Armenian community in Georgia,” it emphasized.