Clergy help defuse Georgian-Azerbaijani ethnic conflict

Dmanisi, Georgia, May 19, 2021

Locals throwing stones at each other in Dmanisi, May 17, 2021. Photo: screengrab from TV Pirveli video Locals throwing stones at each other in Dmanisi, May 17, 2021. Photo: screengrab from TV Pirveli video     

A conflict between ethnic Georgians and Azerbaijanis that flared up in the Georgian town of Dmanisi on Monday was successfully defused thanks to the intervention of representatives of the authorities, the Georgian Patriarchate, and other clergy.

Dmanisi is a town where Georgians are the ethnic minority, with Azerbaijanis making up 65% of the population. The conflict began on Sunday evening, when a group of Azerbaijanis and a group of Georgians got into a brawl at a local grocery store. Footage of the fight made its way onto Facebook, sparking another round of conflict. Soon it was announced that the Azerbaijani community would hold a protest rally the next day.

The situation was unmanageable most of the next day, as residents from nearby villages joined the conflict, attacking each other with bats and stones, leaving several injured. The town had to be closed down by police for several hours.

The opposing parties shake hands in sign of reconciliation. Photo: Mtavari.tv The opposing parties shake hands in sign of reconciliation. Photo: Mtavari.tv     

As Interfax-Religion reports, with reference to Georgian media, the situation cooled off when one of the leaders of the parliamentary majority, Sozar Subari, met with the local residents, the head of the Georgian Patriarchate’s Public Relations Service Archpriest Andria Dzhagmaidze, and the Mufti of Eastern Georgia Etibar Eminov.

Fr. Andria told reporters after the meeting that although the situation in the town 60 miles southwest of Tbilisi was very tense, local residents showed great responsibility and were able to reconcile, preventing the conflict from becoming widespread.   

“Peace is good for everyone, and everyone desired it. I hope there’s no threat of escalation,” the priest said.

“By the grace of God, the population had a civic responsibility and through the efforts of the state, with the involvement of local clergy, including the Patriarchate, the desire to live in a brotherly neighborhood and common sense overcame passions,” Fr. Andria explained.

However, before the mediation of the clergy and authorities, the situation was enflamed by the local media, which helped the situation evolve into an ethnic conflict, the Patriarchate representative lamented.

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5/19/2021

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