OCMS alumnus building bridges of peace

Malkhaz completed his PhD at OCMS in 2012. He is the former Archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia and is now a professor of Comparative Theology and the Metropolitan Bishop of Tbilisi, Georgia. He has contributed significantly to the building of bridges between Christianity and other faiths.

He has recently shared his involvement in the Peace Cathedral:

Peace Cathedral was established as First Baptist Church of Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1867. Its history is full of bold stands in support of oppressed minorities, and it frequently is endangered by religious extremists. It embraces full gender equality, lay and ordained. It was the first Cathedral in Eastern Europe to ordain a woman bishop in 2008.

It has been a tradition of Peace Cathedral to respond to the acts of bigotry and ugliness with creative projects of beauty. In recent years Georgia, which is one of the oldest Christian countries in the world, has seen unprecedented developments in hatred towards Muslims and Jews. The Peace Cathedral has reacted to various acts of violence with acts of beauty, by initiating a Peace Project.

This is why Peace Cathedral is constructing a mosque and a synagogue attached to their church building, a spiritual home for the Abrahamic faiths, including Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims. The Muslim house of prayer will be called Masjid As-salam (Peace Mosque), and the Jewish home will be called Beit Kneset ha-shalom (Peace Synagogue). In addition there is a Centre for Interfaith Dialogue, both interfaith adult and children’s libraries, programming and summer camps and a pilgrimage program to bring people to visit the Republic of Georgia to learn about the hopes and struggles of people of all of these faiths.

The main inspiration of the Peace Project comes from the Judeo-Christian Bible. At the oaks of Mamre in Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah pitched tents to camp and eventually offered hospitality to three angels who came in the guise of travelers. They received words of hope for their own lives, words so remarkable that Sarah, behind the tent flap, laughed with joy at their seeming impossibility. Surah 11 of the Qur’an tells the same story. That has been the theme for the Peace Cathedral’s mission: pitching tents of peace, reconciliation and hospitality.

Psalm 84 has also been an inspiration: How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts, where even the sparrow finds a home, the swallow a nest for its young. And the call comes to people of the Christian tradition who remember that Jesus of Nazareth, in the hours before his arrest, told those gathered for the Passover meal not to be afraid of the dangers around them because God’s house has many rooms and that he is these disciples’ way to find it.

All people of faith are welcome to be a part of the Peace Project. If you are interested to learn more about the project, please contact Malkhaz Songulashvili at malkhaz.songulashvili@gmail.com.

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