The Head of Georgia’s Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II has said that foreigners in Georgia should know their place. The Patriarch addressed his parish on 28 September at Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral Youth Centre, according to Netgazeti.
‘We often think about the fact that a lot of tourists come to Georgia — this makes us very happy. Tourists bring in material wealth […] All of this indicates that Georgia is attractive, but does this benefit us or not? We cannot ban them from coming in, but a guest must know their place and a host must know their place’, Ilia II said.
The patriarch is often cited as the most popular figure in the country. According a 2015 poll conducted by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, 87% of Georgians saw him favourably.
The comments came in the wake of the 14 July xenophobic, ethno-nationalist ‘March of Georgians’ rally, which saw hundreds take to the streets in Tbilisi against ‘illegal immigrants’.
Demonstrators rallied against what they termed an ‘immigrant takeover’, claiming that foreigners enjoy privileges in the country and restrict Georgians’ rights.
[Read on OC Media: Who was in and who was out in Tbilisi’s far-right March of Georgians]
On 12 September the organisers held an ‘anti-Soros’ demonstration outside the office of the Open Society Georgia Foundation, founded by billionaire American philanthropist George Soros, before moving to the headquarters of Kakha Kaladze, the ruling Georgian Dream party’s candide for mayor.
Their demands included that foreigners be prevented from buying land in Georgia. The government has already put limitations on the sale of agricultural lands to foreigners.