‘Georgian tolerance’ is to be granted the status of intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture. The initiative was announced by the head of the State Agency for Religious Issues Zaza Vashakmadze on 15 November, at a conference organised by the agency called Inter-religious Dialog for Peace.
‘Tolerance is one of the fundamental values of Georgia, which has allowed the various ethnic and religious groups of our country to perceive Georgia as their motherland. It has ensured their independent development and preservation of their unique identities without assimilating with the Georgian nation’, said Zaza Vashakmadze in his speech.
The initiative was applauded by a number of religious leaders and government officials attending the conference.
According to the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, there are currently 38 items on Georgia’s list of the intangible cultural heritage.
The government’s commitment to protecting the rights of religious minorities in Georgia have sometimes come under question.
According to a 2017 report by the Public Defender’s Council of Religions, one of the most serious and systemic problems related to freedom of religion is the state’s response to hate crimes. The council claims that public servants, even high-ranking officials, often use hate speech, including against religious groups.
The council also questions the mandate of the State Agency for Religious Issues, saying ‘the Government created the agency without prior consultation with religious associations and major actors working on religious freedom, leading to critical public discussion regarding the need, mandate, and importance of the institute’.