Together with the head of Germany’s Professorenforum, Hans-Joachim Hahn, the President of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) and Moderator for Intrafaith and Interfaith Relations of the World Evangelical Alliance, Thomas Schirrmacher, has conducted a visit to state, academic, economic, religious, and human rights leaders in Georgia.
Is it possible to meet with leaders of all areas of society in a country over the course of three days? Indeed, it works in a smaller country with great hospitality such as that found in Georgia,” Schirrmacher explained to the media. “And if there are friends with good connections, as is the case with the Professorenforum under the leadership of Hans-Joachim Hahn, his counterpart, the Metropolitan Daniel, and the chairman of the Georgian section of the ISHR, Avtandil Davitaia,” he added.
The high point was a joint dinner with the Prime Minister of the country, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilja II., as well as his right hand, Metropolitan Daniel (Datuashvili), in the Church's main cathedral in Mzecheta. The conversation centered on the relationship between church and state in Georgia in light of the desire Georgia has to become a member of the EU, which includes European standards of religious freedom.
Included as additional dialog partners were:
The Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia is an autocephalous Orthodox Church. Its origins are traceable back to missions work by the Apostles in the 1stcentury. In the year 325 A.D., Bishop Stratophilos of Pityounta (present-day Pizunda), from western Georgia, participated in the First Council of Nicaea. King Mirian III made contact with Constantinople and invited Orthodox priests to come to the country. They began to conduct missions in Iberia in 326 A.D. In 327 A.D., Christianity was made the state religion of Iberia. The Church has been autocephalous since 487, and since the 11th century the head has been called the Catholicos Patriarch of all Georgia. Autocephaly was done away with in Russia in 1811 and reintroduced in 1917. Patriarch Illia II was born in 1933 and selected in 1977. Achievements to his credit include, among others, the publication of the Bible in modern Georgian.
The Patriarch personally participated in a demonstration against Soviet rule on April 9, 1989. He attempted in vain to have demonstrators withdraw to the nearby Kashueti Church. In the end, the Soviet military ended the peaceful demonstration, whereby 22 people died and hundreds were injured. During the civil wars of the 1990s, Illia II repeatedly called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
In 1977, in protest against the ethically “liberal” positions of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Georgian Orthodox Church left the WCC, although Illia II had at times been the vice president of the WCC.
The Swetizchoweli Cathedral, which was built from 1010 to 1029 and in which the reception by the Prime Minister and Patriarch took place, was, over the course of several centuries the coronation and burial church of the Georgian kings and the primary church of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia. Up to today, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Mzcheta and Tiflis, who is simultaneously the Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia. Georgia's first church already stood there in the 4th century, and a number of legends refer to this with respect to the Christianization of Georgia in 317 A.D.
Since its founding at the end of the 1990s, Professorenforum, under the coordination of Hans-Joachim Hahn, has been bringing academics from various disciplines, countries, and denominations together to engage in discourse on Christian and occidental values and worldview topics with respect to their significance for scholarship and society. At the same time, events, publications, networks, and other efforts to raise public interest and awareness have been organized. Professorenforum has also organized discussion meetings at German universities where Christian and non-religious academics enter into debate. Additionally, symposiums with similar initiatives are held, and since 2013 this has also taken place within the Georgian-German dialog.