New Internationalist

Orthodox Church goes on the rampage in Georgia

July 2013

Why were nettle-wielding women and stool-throwing priests allowed to attack LGTBI activists? asks Onnik Krikorian.

An item from the Agenda section of the magazine, where we look beyond the news curve with reports and comment on breaking stories.

Recent events in Georgian capital Tbilisi are alarming many who hoped progressive views might win out over more intolerant, traditional values.

The clash of ideals was starkly evident at an event to mark the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), which was disrupted by up to 20,000 counter-demonstrators in May.

Onnik Krikorian
Prejudice with a sting: Orthodox women threaten to thrash gays with nettles. Onnik Krikorian

Despite a statement by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili that lesbians and gays ‘have the same rights as any other social group’, Patriarch Ilia II, the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, called for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) event to be banned, branding homosexuality ‘an anomaly and a disease’.

The confrontation descended into violence when the 50 LGBT activists at the IDAHO event were forced to flee after the Orthodox crowd broke through barriers, meeting little or no police resistance.

In a scene akin to a medieval witch-hunt, elderly women holding stinging nettles sought to thrash homosexuals, and priests wielded wooden stools to beat and smash anyone or anything they could find.

Two priests were among just a handful of people arrested. But human rights groups and local civil society organizations are concerned that the government is unable, or unwilling, to rein in Church power.

In the two decades since the country declared independence, the power and influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church appears to have increased.

Some activists are saying that Georgia risks resembling little more than a theocracy, while LGBT groups are already reporting a spike in the number of cases of harassment and assault.

But with the parliament ready to consider legislation to decriminalize cannabis use as part of its stated aim to modernize, more confrontation and upheaval seems unavoidable.

The Church and the government are likely to find themselves once again at odds, as the country prepares for a tense presidential election in October.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 464 This feature was published in the July 2013 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Orthodox Church goes on the rampage in Georgia

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

  1. #1 Leda Schoen 13 Sep 13

    No church has the right to decide whether you are hetereosexual or homosexual. If the Orthodox Church or any other Church, comes out to attack people who were demonstrating against sexual discrimination whether it is in Tbilisi, or London or anywhere for that matter, then the Church has forgotten its professed christianity.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Agenda

All Agenda

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 464

New Internationalist Magazine issue 464
Issue 464

More articles from this issue

  • Debt – a global scam

    July 1, 2013

    The actions of creditors are key to debt crises, argues Dinyar Godrej.

  • Argument: Are exams bad for children?

    July 1, 2013

    Teachers Stephanie Schneider and Matt Christison go head-to-head.

  • Bats: not just pests

    July 1, 2013

    As the British parliament debates the damage bats cause in churches, Dawn Starin argues that it’s time to revise the ‘creepy’ animal’s reputation – before it’s too late.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.