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Today in the Mission Yearbook

A small building in the Republic of Georgia with a large impact on interfaith dialogue

 

The Peace Cathedral will become a spiritual home for Abrahamic faiths

August 17, 2021

A depiction of St. Francis meeting the Sultan of Egypt during the 13th century. (Image courtesy of the Peace Cathedral)

In the early 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi traveled to Egypt to meet with the Sultan so Francis could show the people there the way of salvation. What happened instead was a conversation about peace, interfaith dialogue and the necessity to join in service together regardless of religious differences.

That is just one of the historical inspirations for the Peace Cathedral in the Republic of Georgia to construct a mosque and a synagogue attached to the church building to create a spiritual home for Abrahamic faiths. Once the project is complete, the building will stand as a profound example of what the world should be.

Georgia is country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, a former Soviet republic. Georgians officially adopted Christianity in the early 4th century.

“The Peace Cathedral is a self-acknowledged small church from a small country doing big things, reaching out beyond the borders of Georgia and across faith traditions to help where help is needed,” said Ellen Smith, World Mission’s regional liaison for Central and Eastern Europe.

She said the organization is exploring partnership opportunities with World Mission.

“Connecting our work with the Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi would be very important, both for its geographical location, its interfaith and peacemaking work, as well as the connections they make between the Middle East and Eastern Europe,” said Luciano Kovacs, World Mission’s coordinator for the Middle East and Europe. “As we affirm old partnerships and develop new ones, we are mindful of how interfaith solidarity and peace work are connected to PCUSA’s Matthew 25 foci.”

The Cathedral’s Muslim house of prayer will be called Masjid As-salam (Peace Mosque), and the Jewish home will be called Beit Kneset ha- shalom תסנכ תיב םולשה (Peace Synagogue). Although not physically large spaces, their impact on interfaith cooperation will be substantial.

In its fundraising document, the Peace Cathedral cities Genesis 18-1-15, where Abraham pitched tents for his camp and showed hospitality to three angels in the guise of travelers. Surah 11 of the Qur’an contains a similar version of the same story. In the same way, the Peace Cathedral will pitch the tents of hospitality and peace to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Peace Cathedral has repeatedly taken bold stands in support of oppressed minorities, even as the church has suffered periodic harassment from religious extremists. It has embraced gender equality, ordaining women to serve as deacons, ministers and bishops, and provided hospitality and safety to Muslim refugees during the Chechen-Russian war and to those who lost their homes and livelihoods when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008.

After completion of Peace Mosque and Peace Synagogue, the cathedral will become an interfaith pilgrimage destination for people who are weary of sectarianism, tribalism and religious antagonism. Prayers for peace will be offered in Islamic, Jewish and Christian liturgical traditions. Peace meditation and liturgical traditions will be shared in respect and reverence and will be open to everyone.

The Peace Mosque is almost finished. Construction has been done in the tradition of ancient stone workmanship. The Peace Mosque repeats the features of the main nave of Peace Cathedral, where the apse is not completed. Neither has the main wall of Peace Mosque been completed. These features are intended as a statement that God’s work is never finished and should be continued from generation to generation. The estimated cost is $15,200.

Portions of the synagogue building will be built in sandstone and green diabase stone from the mountains of Georgia. Some features will be reminiscent of some features of the Dura Europos Synagogue in Syria. The estimated cost of completion is $41,000.

A unique fundraising feature is the commitment to mutuality of support. Only non-Muslims may contribute to the Peace Mosque and only non-Jews can contribute to the Peace Synagogue.

This principle was created to encourage mutual fundraising among Muslims, Christians and Jews to encourage each other’s work and witness and the appreciation of diversity and celebration of the global heritage of religions. There is also an option to make a contribution to the overall project, which will be used to purchase literature and equipment for the library and to organize international and national interfaith seminars and lectures.

For more information, contact ellen.smith@pcusa.org.

 Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Peace Cathedral

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Julianna Sheridan, Business Administrator, Investments, Board of Pensions
Alejandra “Alex” Sherman, Executive Assistant, President’s Office, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)

Let us pray

Good and gracious God, we pray that you would continue to show your face and to all of us as we step out I faith to see what you have for us. We pray that you would make us good stewards of your good gifts. Amen.