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Crackdown on Orthodox Christians Is Urged

Religion | IN BRIEF

February 15, 2003|From Times Wire Reports

MOSCOW — The World Council of Churches is urging the president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia to crack down on militant Orthodox Christians who recently attacked an ecumenical worship service that was to have been led by the country's Baptist, Catholic and Lutheran leaders.

"The World Council of Churches vigorously denounces this unacceptable and criminal action of intolerance which misuses the name of religion," wrote Peter Weiderud, head of the council's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs in a letter to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.

About 100 demonstrators led by a renegade Orthodox priest, Father Basili Mkalavishvili, swarmed the Baptist cathedral in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Jan. 24.

The incident took place shortly before Christian leaders were to arrive for the annual Christian Unity prayer service, according to an eyewitness.

Mkalavishvili, who heads a schismatic Orthodox congregation in Tbilisi, has led attacks on minority faiths in Georgia, a predominantly Orthodox country. He was unavailable to comment.

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