Ilia II believes the existing harsh drug policy needs to be changed " />

Georgian Patriarch’s Christmas epistle focuses on drug policy

Ilia II believes the existing harsh drug policy needs to be changed

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II leading the midnight Christmas service at the Holy Trinity cathedral in Tbilisi on  7 January 2018. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II focused on drug use and the government’s attitude towards the problem during his Christmas epistle.

The Patriarch is calling on the government to revise its punishment-oriented drug policy and to open rehabilitation centers.

“It’s necessary to develop a drug policy that will protect the youth and create a negative attitude towards this severe disease. Rehabilitation centers should be built, children’s awareness should be raised and some other measures need to be taken,” Georgian Patriarch Ilia II stressed in his Christmas epistle.

Representatives of the ruling team assessed it as an important message from the Patriarch.

According to Mamuka Mdinaradze, a member of the Georgian Dream party, the Patriarch’s appeal holds substantial support for the ruling team which intends to change the existing drug policy. In Mdinaradze’s words, ‘liberalism is good with regard to drug users who require the government’s support and shouldn’t be arrested’. As for drug dealers, there should be a stricter law against them’.

Opposition and representatives of the civil sector have long been speaking about the inefficiency of the current drug policy, pointing to the fact that it is mainly used as a  repressive instrument.

The opposition figures also welcomed the Georgian Patriarch’s focus on this particular issue.

“It’s good that the Church has actually stressed the need for introducing changes in this regard. In the process of amending the existing drug policy we have communicated and held discussions with various groups, including with the clergymen. We’ve heard absolutely all arguments and I think that today it goes without saying that the current repressive drug policy doesn’t contribute to a healthy lifestyle or human health in general. Moreover, it serves as an incentive to people and promotes drug use,” said Elene Koshtaria, a member of the European Georgia party.

According to the members of the ‘White Noise’ movement which has been rallying and campaigning for change to the existing drug policy for many years, the Patriarch has been a bit late with his statement about a humane drug policy as the struggle towards that has been underway for two years already.

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