Young Georgians consider themselves very religious. According to the Caucasus Barometer 2015 (http://caucasusbarometer.org ), 74% of people aged from 18 to 35 state that they are religious, 68% of them trust the religious institutions they belong to and 65% of them are fasting (always or often), as required by their religion.
This interest in religions was noticeable for the team of World Religions Club (WRC), organized by Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The Club offers approximately 18 lectures and discussions about all traditional world religions to young people aged 18-30. Approximately 40 persons participate in each group.
In five years, the club has received thousands of applications. Admission interviews with future participants of the club and debates during the courses show that knowledge of even the basic concepts and history of religions, even Georgian Orthodoxy, is very low.
In evaluation interviews, students admit that the lack of knowledge creates hostile attitudes towards believers and that better understanding raises their trust and respect towards religious minorities living in Georgia.
In recent years, general lack of respect or phobias from the majority of population – orthodox Christians - towards other citizens belonging to different religions has violent outbursts towards minorities and especially towards Muslim communities, mostly for their attempt to establish places of worship. It is the understanding of the authors of the initiative that one of the most important reasons of such outbursts is the lack of knowledge and, respectively, fear of the unknown.
The idea of this initiative is to create a World Religions Club blog that will be administrated, developed and publicized by the group of volunteers, approximately 10 young people that have attended WRC lectures throughout 2012-16.
The main goal of the blog will be a space for young people able to: a) read and share their own attitudes and thoughts about issues connected to religious minorities; and b) gain information from their peers about all religious minorities in an understandable, albeit academic language.
The blog will be divided in four main parts:
1)Essays about personal feelings and approaches to various themes connected to religion. Papers will be submitted by the volunteers, previous and future participants of the WRC and, hopefully, by followers of the blog. At the time of writing this proposal, approximately 50 essays are already written, edited and proofread.
2) Reports made by volunteers about various religions events. These will include seminars, book presentations, exhibitions, and festivities. The character of these reports will be different from media coverage as it will be based on personal perceptions of the reporter and not limited to a narrative of facts.
3) Photo-essays illustrating churches, mosques, synagogues, religious centers of lesser known denominations from all over Georgia.
4) Interviews with representatives of different religious minorities or people working on the issues of religious minorities. The first interviews will be held with several previous participants of WRC that represent Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant communities.
WRC Blog is an example of sustainability of WRC. Apart from several exceptions, participants of the courses did not have previous background in theology, religious studies or other related fields, and WRC ignited long-lasting interest in religious diversity.
This interest led the participants to invite WRC lecturers for public lectures at their universities, attending liturgies of small religious denominations, visiting villages populated with religious minorities (such as Pankisi gorge), organizing a group of volunteers for creation of WRC Blog.
The blog will continue to grow and develop in the future through acquiring new members and new ideas.
Equal gender opportunity:
The volunteer group of WRC blog plans to pay special attention to gender issues, as they plan to publish various essays and articles, analyzing gender-related issues such as “compatibility of gender equability with religious traditions,” by interviewing female religious leaders and believers.
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