TBILISI: Celebrating 2000 years of Christianity in Georgia

Celebrating 2000 years of Christianity in Georgia

The Messenger, Georgia
May 20 2005

A group of students has set off on a six-month trek following in
the footsteps of Saint Andrew, who is credited with introducing
Christianity to Georgia By Nino Gvalia

Although not adopted as the state religion until 330 AD, under the
influence of Saint Nino, Christianity first appeared in Georgia in
the first century A.D.

Saint Andrew the Apostle was the first to bring Christianity, but
later missionaries came from Cyprus, Syria, Armenia, Greece, and
elsewhere. Their travels through Georgia are described in ancient
Georgian, Greek and Latin sources.

Adopting Christianity as the state religion brought Georgia into
close cultural relations with Byzantium – one of the most advanced
civilizations of that time – and helped promote the development of
Georgian culture.

2005 is being celebrated in Georgia as the 2000th anniversary of
Christianity in the country, and to mark this important occasion a
number of events have been organized and initiated by the Georgian
Patriarchy, under the aegis of UNESCO and with the sponsorship of
the Georgian government.

The events include walking in the footsteps of Saint Andrew and Saint
Nino and the International Symposium “Christianity in our life: past,
present, future” to be held in November.

One group of thirteen students began tracing the footsteps of St.
Andrew on May 12 – Saint Andrew’s Day. Over the next six months they
intend to travel throughout Georgia visiting all the places Andrew
reputedly passed through.

Patriarch Ilia II blessed the young people at the outset of their
tour. They first traveled to Adjara, where Andrew began his own
travels through Georgia. Staring in Kobuleti, they intend to walk to
a number of places in Adjara before continuing to Samtskhe, Javakheti,
Kartli, Samachablo, Imereti, Racha, Lechkhumi, Svaneti, Kodori Gorge,
Samegrolo, Guria, Imereti and finally Tbilisi.

“I’m very excited to participate in this event and to pray for
Georgia. I’m also rather curious to meet with people here and talk
with them,” said 24 year old David Dandurishvili, whose obligations
in the group include the medical care of other members, as he is a
graduate of the Medical Institute.

The young people do not intend to stop their walking, no matter what
the weather, and say they are ready for any inconvenience and have
all useful accessories, including raincoats and sun cream.

Dandurishvili reports that so far nothing more serious has affected
the group than one member Eka suffering from blisters and another
Lasha hurting his hand.

“Of course, I knew that this trip promises lots of out-of-the-ordinary
surprises, but I could not imagine that it would be so remarkable,”
says 22 years old Lali Tseskhladze, adding that she is very happy at
the chance to explore almost half of Georgia. “I’m in high spirits
to be part of something so important and interesting,” she declared.

In every village where the group stays, the young people are holding
screenings of a documentary film about Adjara shot in 2000 charting
the route taken by St. Andrew, as well as other films.

The people in Adjara have been very hospitable and warm to them,
the walkers report. “These people are so welcoming, they feel happy
when we are staying in their houses,” says Levan Odisharia, adding
that most people have not been baptized and wish to become Christians
and to build churches in their villages.

A similar walk, again bringing together mostly students, following
in the footsteps of Saint Nino of Cappadoccia is to begin on June 1.
This route begins in Javakheti and passes through several different
regions, again lasting for six months.

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