Clashes erupt after Armenians try to install cross-stone in a Javakhk village

Residents of the Armenian-populated village of Gumburdo (Kumurdo) in Javakhk clashed with police on Saturday after the latter prevented attempts to erect a cross-stone in the churchyard.

The National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia is renovating the 10th century church in the high-mountain village 9 km west of Akhalkalak, hoping that it will meet all standards for being included in list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A number of bones were found at the site, when renovation works started last year. The residents reburied “the bones of their ancestors” in the same area. An agreement was reached with locals that the issue of the cross stone would be solved after local self-government elections scheduled for October 21. A group of residents, however, decided to install it earlier.

MP from the ruling Georgian Dream Party, member of the Armenia-Georgia Friendship Group David Chichinadze describes this as a “provocation before elections.”

“There were people giving out money to villagers. This is certainly an issue to be solved by the church and clergymen, but there are certain people willing to politicize the issue,” he said.

The lawmaker, however, refused to name the incites of the provocation, adding that “investigation will answer all questions.”

MP Samvel Manukyan elected from Javakhk also considers that the issue should be solved by the church.

Fr. Babken Salbiyan, the Prelate of Javakhk and Tsalka’s General Prelacy of the Armenian Diocese in Georgia described the incident as “unpleasant, incomprehensible misunderstanding.” He said they are holding meetings connected with the clash and will come forth with an official statement after discussions.

The clashes connected with the cross stone have renewed discussions on who the church belongs to.  Expert of monuments Samvel Karapetyan writes in the book “Javakhk” that Kumurdo was the seat of the Chalcedonian Church between 10th and 12th centuries.

According to Tbilisi-based Armenian historian Yenok Tadevosyan “there is no doubt that the church was Chalcedonian. Therefore, the locals were incorrect in their attempt to erect a cross-stone in the yard.”

Metropolitan Nikoloz Pachuashvili of Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo says the church is the wealth of the Armenian and Georgian peoples.

“Had Armenians not taken care of it, it would not be standing today. Therefore, it’s our common wealth,” he said.

“In reality, the incident was an attempt to incite an interethnic and interchurch conflict, which could grow more serious,” he said.

Metropolitan Nikoloz Pachuashvili is confident, however, that there can be no enmity between the two brotherly peoples.

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