While being Mediterranean-like along the Black Sea coast, the Republic of Georgia is actually mostly mountainous terrain. Peaks rising more than 5,200 meters (17,000ft.) separate it from the Caucasus and from Russia. Turkey, Armenian, and Azerbaijan border Georgia to the south. Grapes, citrus fruits, and hazelnuts are plentiful and exported, but Georgia’s reliance on importing natural gas hampers further political and economic development. Absorbed into the Russian empire in the 19th century, Georgia proclaimed independence in 1991. Eduard Shevardnadze, who helped Russia draft new freedoms, presided Georgia for five years.
Q & A:
Q. The Republic of Georgia was one of the first countries to become Christian. How did it get to be 10% Muslim?
A. Georgia has been conquered by Muslim empires several times. Tbilisi (the capital) was conquered by Arabs in the 8th century and a Muslim community remained. From the 16th century, Ottoman Turks and Iranian Safavids (Persians) controlled much of Georgia. Migrants, later known as Tatars, also decided to make the region their home.
Q. What are the main Muslim ethnic groups in Republic Georgia?
A. There are three main Muslim populations: Ethnic Azeris (in rural areas and Tbilisi), ethnic Georgian Muslims of Ajara (in the southwest), and ethnic Chechen Kists in north-eastern Georgia. Each of these main peoples has quite a distinct history of their own.
Q. Didn’t the Soviet era abolish Islam?
A. No, For example, Islamic law (Shari’a) and administration were abolished in 1926 but by 1930 a compromise was reached allowing Muslims certain freedoms. During the Second World War the Soviets set up Muslim Religious Boards to manage Muslims throughout the region. Some Muslims were deported (depending on ethnicity) and the deportation actually continued into late in the 20th century. It is still a political issue.
Q. And what about Islam today in Georgia?
A. Islam is very much an influence in the region. Here is an example. There are several madrassahs (Muslim religious schools) in Georgia. Some are Shi’ite, financed by Iranian religious groups while others are Sunni financed by Turkish groups. Georgians are concerned Islamist ideology coupled with outside influences could cause internal violence. The Muslim Chechen Kists have also been a source of political tension between Georgia and Russia.
Q. How can we pray for the Republic of Georgia?
A. There are several things we Christians need to pray for today. These can include:
* Prayer for the Azeri: Ask the Lord to send native Azeri speaking Christian workers to them. The Bible and the Jesus film are available in the Azeri language but the Good News needs to be shared in culturally effective ways with an emphasis on discipleship.
*Prayer for the Kists and the Muslims of the Ajaria area : Pray for God to give wisdom, favour, and opportunities to Christians that are reaching out to them (1 Corithians 16:9).
* Prayer for Christians: Relations between the Georgian Orthodox Church and Protestant congregations have not always been positive. Love, mutual respect and greater comprehension are needed. May Christians be strengthened in their faith, work and witness (John 17:17-21).
Economy of Georgia
Georgia’s main economic activities include the cultivation of agricultural products such as grapes, citrus fruits, and hazelnuts; mining of manganese and copper; and output of a small industrial sector producing alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, metals, machinery, and chemicals. Georgia had suffered from a chronic failure to collect tax revenues and smuggling remains a drain on the economy. Georgia also suffers from energy shortages due to aging and badly maintained infrastructure, as well as poor management.The construction on the Baku-T’bilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-T’bilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline have brought much-needed investment and job opportunities.
Share the Gospel Message in Azeri Chechen Georgean
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