Today the Chairman of the State Agency for Religious Issues, Zaza Vashakmadze held an introductory meeting with the Head of the EU Monitoring Mission, Ambassador Marek Schiegel.
At the meeting the Chairman of the Agency informed the guest about the establishment of the State Agency for Religious Issues, on religious policy in Georgia and the activities carried out by the state in this direction in recent years. Zaza Vashakmadze spoke about the funding of religious organizations, the transfer of religious buildings, trainings under the Governmental Human Rights Action Plan, the formation of an inter-religious council, on the situation of Georgia and its occupied regions in terms of freedom of religion and current challenges.
Marek Schiegel noted that the EUMM has been working in Georgia for 12 years and its mandate is to normalize, stabilize, inform and raise trust between the parties. He noted that he took broader look at the issues and highlighted the challenges facing people on both sides of the administrative border, as well as restrictions on freedom of movement and "borderization", where religious policy and co-operation in this area play an important role. It is difficult to talk about progress unless human rights are restored in the occupied territories.
The meeting discussed the situation with regard to freedom of religion in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, the facts of persecution and harassment of the Georgian Orthodox Church, restrictions on worship, as well as encroachment of religious buildings by the Russian side in the occupied regions and the destruction of Georgian cultural identity.
The Ambassador praised the activities carried out by the Agency in the field of freedom of religion and human rights, the implemented and ongoing projects, from which the format of inter-religious dialogue was distinguished. According to him, it is unique in its content, and Georgia is an example of tolerance, which has a great tradition and heritage.
The Ambassador expressed full support for the activities of the Agency and the parties expressed their desire to implement joint projects in the future.