Orthodox Churches and the Transformation of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict
AbstractThe concept of conflict transformation places considerable emphasis on civil society, which – in its broader sense – includes church organizations. Representatives of churches have direct access to persons who are involved in conflicts, and thus they have the potential to influence public opinion and the ability to bring hostile parties together to engage in dialogue. The aim of this study is to identify the factors underlying the low level of engagement in the peacebuilding process by Orthodox religious institutions in Georgia and Abkhazia and which prevent these organizations from exercising a positive influence over conflict transformation. The field research for the article was conducted via interviews with representatives of Abkhazian and Georgian civil society, and this data is supplemented by the public declarations of church representatives with relevance to conflict transformation. The incompatibility of the views held by the two church communities (those of Georgia and Abkhazia) regarding the cause of the escalation of the conflict and the highly politicized nature of the respective church organizations, both of which overtly support and contribute to domestic nationalist discourses in their respective societies, have been identified as the main factors limiting the peacebuilding potential of the churches in the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process.
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