Vandalism and misappropriation of Armenian churches in Georgia goes on

It actually turns out that Georgian Government pampers Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) in their initiative to appropriate Armenian churches, believing that Armenians have nowhere to go. This position is dangerous and apparently leads to a deadlock.

On November 16 Georgia once more committed vandalism towards the long-suffering Church of Norashen in Tbilisi. This time for infamous priest of the Georgian Orthodox Church Father Tariel Sikinchelashvili as an object of barbarity served the graves of Mikhail and Lydia Tamamshevs. The outraged mob of Tbilisi Armenians strongly demanded that gravestones be placed back, and a bitter quarrel began.
PanARMENIAN.Net - Father Tariel made harsh statements in response, stressing that "Armenians are inclined to capture what is not theirs". However, upon arrival of representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Member of the Georgian Parliament, Armenian by nationality Van Bayburt, the Georgian monk tried to justify himself by saying that he had just moved the gravestones away to "clean under them". Hence, we wonder what he was going to clean there.

The Church of Norashen was built in the middle of the 15th century. In 30s of the 20th century together with other religious buildings the church was closed for religious activities and was transformed into a depository of books. However, after Georgia's independence, the Georgian Government did not return the church to its legal, historical owner but, instead, multiplied its actions aimed at appropriating Norashen.

After two days of silence the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) expressed its opinion on the act of sacrilege (Tariel's actions cannot be interpreted otherwise). «We strictly criticize the treatment of Georgian clergymen towards the Church of Norashen in Tbilisi. What is going on in the yard of the Armenian Church Norashen is disharmonious with the spirit of the centuries-old relations between the Republics of Georgia and Armenia. I am in no doubt that Hierarchy of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) will take all the necessary steps for suppressing the actions of Father Tariel Sikinchelashvili, since they are not in agreement with the Christian spirit», said Head of Holy Echmiadzin Press Office, Father Vahram Melikyan.

Melikyan also noted that Georgian Eparchy of the AAC does not have a state status yet, and the Church of Norashen, in fact, does not belong to it. «All the Armenian churches in Georgia belong to the State, and it ill-treats them, certainly with the help of the GOC clergy.

In a word, vandalism and misappropriation of Armenian churches in Georgia goes on, despite the agreement between the Prime-Ministers of both countries not to maltreat the Church of Norashen. For some reasons Tbilisi welcomes the existence of synagogues, catholic churches or mosques in its territory. Doesn't the reason lie in the belief that Armenia cannot spoil relations with Georgia as the latter is the only land road leading to the outer world? It actually turns out that Georgian Government pampers Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC), believing that Armenians have nowhere to go. This position is dangerous and apparently leads to a deadlock. May it be so that Georgia follows Azerbaijan's example, where misappropriation and demolition of Armenian monuments has become a norm? Everything is possible.

Meanwhile the newspaper "Caucasus" of 1850 reports about consecration of the foundation of a newly reconstructed church in the Armenian cemetery. Here the original text follows: «On July 8 at 8:00 a.m. in the Armenian cemetery near the Moscow post, foundation of a new Armenian church was laid. It is said to be called after St. Peter. Titular Councellor David Tamamshev, initiator of this praiseworthy work, began the construction at his own expense. Honorable and dishonorable figures of the City of Tiflis all witnessed the ceremony. The Thanksgiving Service was paid by local Diocesan Archbishop Karapet, Archbishop Minas and other Armenian priests. Uttering a payer, His Grace washed the church stones and blessed all the four sides of the foundation. Afterwards, the chorus of priests performed a holy chant, while the stones were anointed crosswise. Veneration with which His Grace performed all this ceremony touched everyone present; at least I was deeply moved. Then, taking the pick, he dug 4 holes on each side of the foundation, putting there those stones wrapped into a cloth, which were dedicated to each Evangelist…».

We do not know what family ties David Tamamshev had with the married couple buried in the churchyard of Norashen. But one thing is definite: God treats everyone in accordance with their actions, and Father Tariel will receive what he deserves. And lastly, here is the opinion of a true Georgian, Tbilisi resident Gel Vasadze, who is not indifferent towards what is going on in his country. «Norashen should be given to the Gregorian Church and it should be given by the State, which is the guarantor of rights and freedom of all the citizens of Georgia, irrespective of their nationality and religion. It should be handed over no matter who it was built by - Armenians or Georgians. Why should it matter? What matters now is that this step is necessary for us, ethnic Georgians because the future of our country lies in the diversity that now exists in Georgia, in Tbilisi, and in the Georgian market. By taking this step we would be able to conquer ourselves, we would be able to overcome our complexes. The other day, when I was in Tbilisi, I met Uncle Volodya (Vasadze's neighbour). He was too weakened because of his age. And I am heartily looking forward to the day when Norashen will again be functioning as a church and I will look into my old neighbour's eyes and admire the look in them».
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