Speaker Papuashvili accuses USAID of funding “enemies of church”

23 იან 202414:55
3 წუთის საკითხავი

Parliament speaker Shalva Papuashvili has spearheaded Georgian Dream’s push to frame the outcry following the discovery of Stalin’s image on one of the icons in Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral as an “attack against the Church.”

Without mentioning the reason for the outcry or saying anything negative about the glorification of Joseph Stalin on the icon St Matrona of Moscow blesses Stalin, Mr. Papuashvili lashed out at SovLab (a think-tank studying Soviet totalitarian past) and its project manager Giorgi Kandelaki who was one of the first to break the story on Stalin.

“It is particularly worrying that so-called civil society organizations are involved. Moreover, Giorgi Kandelaki, a representative of one of the non-governmental organizations “Sovlab”, fueled the hysteria surrounding the icon placed in the Holy Trinity Cathedral.”

Speaker Papuashvili focused on attacking Beka Mindiashvili, head of the Tolerance Center at the Public Defender’s Office for being an active member of what he called a “coordinated campaign against the Church.”

Mr Papuashvili called out Mr Mindiashvili for “distinguished himself by hostile rhetoric towards the Georgian Orthodox Church.”

He also lashed out at the Tolerance Center and its role. The center is supported by various Western donors, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a key platform of inter-religious dialogue and tolerance. While stressing that the center is not part of the Public Defender’s Office, Mr Papuashvili accused it of “hijacking the name of the constitutional body.”

Speaker Papuashvili then lashed out at the USAID itself.

"I am deeply saddened that yet again USAID is at the epicenter of a scandal related to projects financed by its name. It turned out that a person [Beka Mindiashvili] who is distinguished by religious intolerance and inciting religious hysteria manages to receive American funding for a cause that he is completely opposed to [...] It is my expectation that the USAID leadership will soon find out about this issue and act in the best interest of the American and Georgian people [...] America finances hate speech, and this is a problem" he added.

Papuashvili then brought back the issue of “transparency of CSO funding” and stressed its necessity. A year ago, Georgian Dream passed the Russia-style law declaring all NGOs “foreign agents” but was forced to withdraw it following massive protests.

He also called all donors to scrutinize whether they are “funding projects and people that act contrary to our shared values in the human rights field and are aimed at the radicalization of society.”

Papuashvili’s statement was followed by a series of aggressive reports in various Government-linked media outlets, calling the targets of the campaign “enemies of the church.”

Georgian Public Defender Levan Ioseliani distanced himself from the Tolerance Center and said it is not the structural unit of his office and that the Ombudsman cannot be responsible for the Center’s statement.

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