Since Monday, July 5, there has been a substantial amount of anti-Church media reports directed against the Georgian Orthodox Church because of the mass demonstration against the planned LGBTQ march that was supposed to occur in the center of the capital city on Rustaveli Avenue. These media reports, both in English & Georgian, have depicted the Georgian Orthodox Church as the main cause of the isolated cases of violence that took place on this day. From the start, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate issued the following statement on July 4th that dissuaded people from committing any violence, "We address our population with a call not to follow deliberate provocations, and in order that people’s peaceful protest is not transformed into violent confrontation.”1 Present at the march were hundreds of thousands of Georgians from all backgrounds (families, young people, the elderly) who came from across the nation to demonstrate peacefully. The atmosphere of the demonstration itself was hugely positive, with copious amounts of prayer, patriotic chants, singing, and dancing. Examples of this can be seen in the following videos:
However, the narrative of the media outlets both within Georgia and from a multitude of foreign media agencies has been completely different. From the reports made by these media agencies, it was fabricated that the majority of participants from Monday’s anti-pride demonstration were violent and were doing this because the Church called for it. The “evidence” for this consists only in the speech of one Georgian Orthodox priest (who has been punished) calling for violence in direct disobedience to the directives of the Patriarch. In addition to this, the media has completely focused upon the attacks on fifty people, which were conducted by twenty individuals completely unconnected to the Church. In the case of two of these individuals, it has been shown that they were paid by the pro-LGBTQ political opposition party United National Movement.2 Also, one random stabbing of a Polish journalist was blamed upon the Church and the anti-LGBTQ demonstrators, but it has since then been established that this was a random attack by a mentally ill individual who was supposed to be admitted into a mental health facility that day.3
Completely absent from the media narrative has been the Georgian clergy's role in protecting these journalists. An example of this media disinformation can be seen in the following report that said a reporter was “dragged away in a headlock by Georgian Orthodox priests.”
However, the exact same elderly priest in this video from Radio Free Europe can be seen actually defending this journalist and getting beaten by these individuals committing this crime.4 Lastly, the Church sent a priest to visit and bring comfort to these injured journalists while receiving medical treatment in a hospital.5 On the evening of July 5, after the anti-pride demonstrations had ended, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate issued the following statement, “Unfortunately, the media is distorting the footage that there was some violent incident against the journalists during today's meeting, which is, of course, very unfortunate, and totally unacceptable. Therefore, in order to manage the situation as peacefully as possible, we once again urge you to respect each other, keep calm and refrain from any aggressive actions. We shall remember that hurting even one person is not only harmful to the individual, but also harms the entire society and goes against Christian teachings.”6 Despite the actions of the Church in calling for non-violence and the Church being the main calming influence in making this an overall very peaceful demonstration, the Church is now being portrayed as the enemy of the nation by the mass media. Overall, the limited amounts of violence could have been completely prevented if the Tbilisi Pride organization along with the western embassies had listened to the Georgian Orthodox Church and Georgian police who stated the following, “The Ministry of Internal Affairs held a number of meetings with the organizers of Tbilisi Pride as a result of which the ministry took responsibility to provide security at the July 1 public screening of 'March for Dignity,' a British documentary film and July 3 events (Queer Fest), however, and offered Tbilisi Pride organizers an alternative location to hold the July 5 march. However, they stated that they only wanted to hold a demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue. Despite a number of working meetings, Tbilisi Pride representatives did not change their position”, Darakhvelidze said.”7
At the time of the writing of this article, there continues to be daily disturbances within Tbilisi from various pro-western, anti-Church groups that have now started demonstrations because of the death of one journalist who was injured at the July 5 demonstrations. This will most likely continue in the near future as political fighting takes place between the ruling Georgian Dream party and the political opposition United National Movement, which has blamed the violence on July 5 on the Georgian Dream party. May God help Georgia and the Georgian Church in overcoming these difficult times, which could result in the nation being destabilized in favor of LGBTQ interests.
The author, Kyrylo M’yazha lives and works in Tbilisi.