My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Holy Georgia In the Steps of Saint Nino and the Syrian Fathers

Pilgrim; from Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary:

"a wanderer: one who travels to a distance to visit a holy place: allegorically or spirituality, one journeying through life as a stranger in this world." That's me!

Mother Georgia statue
Georgia, in the Caucasus region of Europe (and not to be confused with the American state of Georgia), has the highest level of biodiversity, the highest human settlements, some of the highest mountain peaks, the oldest prehistoric Hominid bones, and the highest Orthodox Christian church. It boasts stunning countryside and scenery, good food, renowned wine, and wonderful hospitality. Its state language, Georgian, is one of the oldest living languages in the world. This beautiful country, at just under 70,000 square kilometers, is slightly smaller than Austria or the Republic of Ireland and under half the size of the American state of the same name. It may not be great in size, but it is a country full of superlatives.

Some of the superlatives are not so good. Against all odds Georgia has survived probably one of the most turbulent histories for a country of this size. Significantly for us, it is also only the second country, after Armenia, to adopt Christianity as its state religion, and today something like 80 - 90 % of the population is devout Christian and these attend their orthodox church regularly.

Bodbe convent site of St Nino's tomb
Christianity was introduced to Georgia in the 1st century by the apostles Andrew, Simon and Matthew. Later a female slave from Cappadocia, St Nino, so impressed the Georgian Queen Nana and later her husband King Mirian with her miracles that they both converted from paganism to Christianity, and this became the official state religion in AD 337, making it the world's second Christian nation. St Nino's tomb within Bodbe Convent is a sacred place for many Georgians. But it wasn't until the arrival in the sixth century of twelve Syrian missionaries from Antioch, with the foundation of several monasteries, that the religion became firmly established.

That is why we have come to Georgia, a party of 36 pilgrims from the Anglican Diocese of Southwark in the city of London, assisted by McCabe Pilgrimages, to visit many of the ancient churches and monasteries, following in the steps of St Nino and those Syrian Fathers.

Me on the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan
We don't know it yet, but our tour will involve some strenuous mountain treks. One will involve bitterly cold and soaking rain and the danger of bathing in mud. The other will be in dry desert heat, with the added excitement of poisonous snakes, said to be particularly aggressive at this time of year (don't worry if you are ophidiophobic - this particular climb is optional and I will not be sharing photos of these!). For some this will prove to be the highlight of the trip. But those joys are saved for much later in the week.

Over the next few weeks the story of our pilgrimage will unfold on this blog with plenty of photos as well so please come back for more - and I hope you enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you on another pilgrimage! And I'm glad to know about Armenia and Georgia as the earliest countries to adopt Christianity. Did a lot of non-Christians lose their heads, or did everyone quietly convert? I knew that Armenia was very early. Didn't realize it was the first.
    I've gotten so far behind in blogging and so many other writing activities! I'll be trying to catch up this summer.