Interfaith Leaders Gather to Promote Unity & Peace

Source: Baptist News

Like many leaders in interfaith spaces, Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili is all too familiar with the criticisms. The founder of Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, Songulashvili hopes that Peace Cathedral with separate worship spaces designed for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian groups can serve as a model for promoting peace.

“This project will respect the liturgical integrity of each community, each in their own space, but there will be a fellowship hall where Muslims, Christians and Jews can come together for meals and food. We do not encourage or approve of some sort of religious syncretism.”

Founded originally as First Baptist Church in Tbilisi in partnership with the U.S.-based Alliance of Baptist, Peace Cathedral is the oldest Baptist church in the Republic of Georgia. Known as a champion of interfaith cooperation throughout the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, they are supportive of LGBTQ rights, practice women’s ordination, and advocate for pro-humanitarian causes around the world.

The expected completion date for Peace Cathedral is Pentecost 2023.

Additional facilities will include a library and an interfaith dialogue center “designed to create a spiritual home for Abrahamic faiths, including both Sunni and Shi’a Muslim communities. The Peace Project is envisioned to be a profound example of what the world can be, and should be, in cooperation and respectful unity.”

According to the project summary found on the organization’s website, the various building phases have been an exercise in interfaith cooperation.

“The entire project has become a deep learning experience for all parties and individuals involved,” the summary explains. “Project managers had to work closely with Sephardic and Ashkenazi rabbis to ensure that the Peace Synagogue would be acceptable and a comfortable place of worship for Jews from all three branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Reformed and Conservative traditions. Similarly, consultations had to be carried out with Sunni, Shi’a and Sufi clergy, so that the Peace Mosque would be a satisfactory space for worship and prayer for all Muslims.”

Despite the goals of the project, some religious bodies have been critical.

Songulashvili said, “We received a lot of criticism when we consecrated the first female bishop in the country 13 years ago, including harsh criticism from the Orthodox Church. Now she is widely accepted in Georgia and her voice is being regularly heard in the public domain on religious issues, ethics, social justice and war and peace. So, we are not scared of criticism because even the people who start criticizing our projects eventually realize it’s not as dangerous as they thought originally.”

Determine to see the project through, currently the cathedral is scheduled for opening Pentecost 2023.

Source: Baptist News