Christians, Muslims clash in Western Georgia over mosque
In the village of Buknari, Chokhatauri municipality in Western Georgia, a clash took place between local Christian and Muslim communities yesterday, resulting in several injuries.
A verbal dispute escalated into a physical confrontation after it became known that members of the local Muslim community were planning to build a prayer house in the village, which has been opposed by the local Christian community. Three Muslims, including children, were severely injured in the January 12 clash when they were attacked with stones.
The injured were taken to hospital. In the evening of the same day, Georgian Interior Ministry officers detained one of the participants in the conflict. Local Muslims demand the intervention of the authorities. ______________________________________________________________________________
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Several dozen people from the neighboring Achara region came to Buknari village today to support the Muslim community.
One of them, Piruz Tsulukidze, said in an interview with the Batumelebi newspaper that he had come to express solidarity with Muslims: “We did not come to the rally.
We came to ask what is happening here, and let the local community decide whether it will be a meeting, protest, peaceful conversation or something else.”
Another protester, Ramaz Chagaidze, said Muslims are being pressured by local residents, including teachers from schools, and warned against setting up a Muslim prayer house.
Metropolitan of the Georgian Evangelical Baptist Church in Tbilisi Malkhaz Songulashvili, Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria and the Center for Education and Monitoring in the Field of Human Rights (EMC) responded to the conflict in the village of Buknari.
According to Songulashvili, “a country where young people get their heads broken because of prayer has no future.”
“We also appeal to the citizens of our country who oppose Muslims: this country belongs to everyone, everyone in this country has the right to practice their religion, everyone has the right to equip their religious building as their religion requires,” Songulashvili said.
The Center for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (EMC) calls on the state to ensure the de-escalation of the conflict, and notes organizing a religious space in a private home when it does not require any construction work is not subject to legal regulation or authorization.
Public Defender Nino Lomjaria said “this may be a continuation of the fact that the religious conflicts that took place in 2012-2016, unfortunately, did not have legal consequences.”