Georgia Joins WSCF
An Interview for Mozaik
On 30 October 2011, Young Christians for Peace and Democracy (YCPD) became an associate member of WSCF-Europe. Yulia Bajelidze interviewed the YCPD’s chairperson and theologian Mirian Gamrekelashvili.
Please tell us briefly about YCPD’s foundation aims and what changes are seen after becoming associate member of WSCF-Europe?
Our organization was founded via ecumenical parity on 9 May 2006 and its major function is supporting religious tolerance, theological education, dialogue between churches and cultures in general. Like other countries, there is the historical experience of religious tolerance in Georgia as well. Though, Georgia still undergoes the process of political transformation, unfortunately, reflections around such experience are less. Tolerance failed to shape into public norm.
Growing isolationism inside Orthodox Church of Georgia incurred from various difficulties and other socio-cultural factors make factual, peaceful, co-existence and development of real ecumenical relations of religions impossible. Lack of academic theological literature also complicates problem.
For this reason, we would like to renew inter-confessional dialogue on theological or other issues and support tolerance and peaceful coexistence of different religions. As we considered it necessary to establish close relations with international religious organizations for reaching our aims, as soon as our organization was incorporated (2006), one of our major goals was to establish intensive cooperation and practical partnership with international organizations.
Was it your strategy to be a member of any international organization? Does it have any specific basis and goal?
We really aimed to the membership of any international organization; it was one of our major goals. While discussing this issue, it is impossible not to mention religious discourse determined by the Orthodox Church of Georgia. In 1997, the Orthodox Church of Georgia left World Council of Churches and Conference of European Churches. This was followed by inertial growth of isolation thinking inside the Church. Structural detachment from the rest of the Christianity in the world caused detachment of the Georgian Orthodox organizations from the rest of Europe.
YCPD aims to forward international relations in this field and help to integrate into religious organizations of the west. Being the member of World Student Christian Federation encourages us to think that we are also able to contribute in a global process of peace-making and humanness. We are happy to have a possibility to contribute to this process!
Tell us about beginning of relations with the WSCF Europe.
Our relation with WSCF Europe began, when I was in Berlin as the Chairman of YCPD, in August of 2008, attending international conference jointly convened by ESG (Evangelische StudentInnengemeinde in Deutschland) and WSCF Europe. It is notable that, we are significantly liberal-democratic religious organization in Georgia, which is quite rare in our country. For the next years, active participation of our organization’s members in international meetings, our activities (accomplished by own sources and capabilities) and negotiations were very effective and successful. When our special representative in relations with international organizations, Yulia Bajelidze notified us about this wonderful news of becoming an associated member of WSCF Europe at the European Regional Assebly in Løgumkloster, Denmark, we were all very happy and thankful to God.
Tell us about current activities and future plans of YCPD.
To say honestly, the specific public-political situation in Georgia doesn’t provide preferable preconditions for developing our activities, thus our activity area is somehow limited and we focus only on necessary priorities. As one of the most effective ways to overcome the above said problems is supporting students, wishing to receive education in west, considering that except the competent and scientific knowledge, they acquire intercultural view in Western universities and comprehensive approaches towards the different. Because of the support of YCPD, fifteen Georgian students received professional education in various countries of Europe. Most of them are theologians and some of them chose theology as minor specialization. Additional forms of exchange of education and information is participation of our organization members, volunteers in international meetings and workshops, giving us the chance to get involved in quest of problem overcoming methods at international level.
From October of 2012, our Organization will start to publish a Georgian theological magazine “IOTA”. Our editorial team has already prepared the first issue of the magazine. This magazine will try to introduce in Georgia theological discussions ongoing in western countries, including other information regarding various religions, confessions or other affairs in ecumenical field. It is notable that, first issue of the magazine will cover information on WSCF Europe and on our associate membership.
Besides such activities, YCPD plans to activate in supporting of projects for establishing more precise contacts. We wish to operate summer school project in Georgia in cooperation with SCM Norway (Norges Kristelige Studentforbund). Besides that, the field of summer school refers to modern challenges of Christianity, there will be held interesting discussion as well, students from various countries will introduce with Georgia and its culture. It should be noted that our country is being developed following the Christian line beginning from the fourth century, thus, the Georgian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches in the world.
Also, we shall be very glad to cooperate with WSCF Europe, if the organization decides to arrange any of its workshops in Georgia.
We also plan to carry out and set the Tolerance Cup as an annual event; a project accomplished by us and our partners. In 2006 we held the first Tolerance Cup; within the project, football teams of various confessions competed for first place. Practical communication among participants and supporters will help to overcome existing negative views and establish friendly relations.
Our organization will continue to actively participate on the international level and try to cooperate with international organizations, as we consider that our goals can be reached via international platform.
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