President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili issued a statement on January 13 regarding a clash between Christian and Muslim locals of Buknari village of Chokhatauri Municipality in Guria region, saying that “no one has a right to cast a shadow over our historical achievement – compassion and tolerance.”
The President described the skirmish as “regrettable,” and expressed her hopes that the issue will be shortly resolved.
“Georgia has always been taking pride in its religious diversity. This is a wealth for our country, one of the foundations of its strength,” President Zurabishvili underlined.
She said: “Our citizens have guaranteed [right to] freedom of religion by the Constitution. Religious services and rituals are the right of our citizens that no one can restrict.”
On the same day, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze also commented on the event, stating that Georgian religious and ethnic diversity is a source of “tremendous richness and pride.”
“We have lived together throughout centuries, and representatives of different religions and ethnic groups together create the future of our country. This peaceful cohabitation will never be questioned,” Kaladze underscored.
The Mayor also underlined that “insult of religious feelings” will be not only neglect of the law and the Constitution but disrespect to “our ancestry”, as tolerance is “in the blood” of Georgian people.
The skirmish over religious grounds in Guria on January 12 reportedly left three locals injured. Nearly a month-long dispute between the two, ethnically Georgian religious communities, has been fueled by the demands for mosque construction in the village, which angered the Christians.