Christian and Muslim Georgians of Chokhataury Municipality’s village Buknari in the western Guria region struck a deal on January 15 to end a month-long religious dispute and to continue a “peaceful coexistence” in the village.
The confrontation between the two communities, fueled by the Muslim community’s demand for the construction of a new mosque, which was resisted by the Christians, turned into a skirmish on January 12, leaving 3 locals injured.
The parties met for talks to reach an agreement in the afternoon today after both, Muslims and Christians held prayers in their places of worship. Ten representatives each from the two communities, the local government representatives, Guria region governor, former and current majoritarian MPs of Guria constituency, Nino Tsilosani and Vasil Chigogidze, respectively, Mufti of Georgia and a representative of the Georgian Orthodox Church attended the meeting.
Mufti of Georgia Adam Shantadze said after the meeting that conflicting parties shook hands as a sign of agreement. He expressed his hopes that “this will be a symbol and a beginning of perpetual peaceful cohabitation and mutual respect in the country.”
“Everyone will visit their places of worship and pray,” a local, reportedly Muslim, told the press after the sides reached the deal.
“Peaceful cohabitation will continue in the village. Everyone will pray as per their confession and it will not become a ground for irritation. [This, irritation actually] has not ever been present here before. [Those] attempting to commit provocations will be exposed,” Chokhatauri Municipality Mayor Irakli Kuchava stated.
Prior to today’s negotiations, members of the Georgian Dream and the United National Movement parties had a verbal confrontation, with UNM’s Besik Katamadze claiming GD MP Vasil Chigogidze had promised the Muslim community of the village the construction of the Mosque in exchange for getting their votes. Chigogidze blamed the ruling Georgian Dream party for worsening the situation in the village. Police soon removed Katamadze from the site.
In the past days, the conflicting sides expressed willingness to meet and come to an agreement, but their attempts proved to be unsuccessful. One of the locals said third parties were involved in “planned provocation” to stir relations between the two communities.
“Information emerged all of a sudden among the Gurians [meaning Christian residents of the village], that a Mosque, minaret, and loudspeakers were to be constructed [in the village] by Turkish money, without inquiring the locals about it. The other side [the Muslim community] was informed as if we [Christians] had planned to demolish the place of worship and forbid them from praying,” one of the Christian community representatives told the media.
“Reconciliation is necessary. I am deeply convinced that my co-villagers will act [reasonably]… Strife and hostility have never brought anything [good] to Georgia until today and they will not today either… No religion or place of worship is worth for me the price of my kids’ and my Christian brothers’ blood,” a Muslim community representative told the press.
Media reported in the late afternoon that the situation in the village remains peaceful, with several police crews being mobilized in the center.
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