Georgian political party puffs up its church

Inflatable church Image copyright Wikmedia/Edward Simpson
Image caption Georgia's Girchi party wants to inspire greater confidence in its newly created church

A political party in Georgia is planning to buy an inflatable church to prove that it is serious about the religious organisation it founded to help men avoid conscription into the army.

The Girchi (Pine cone) party has said that since authorities are trying to prove its Christian Evangelical Protestant Biblical Freedom Church of Georgia does not exist, it would purchase a church to enable its members to hold prayers, Tbilisi's Imedi TV reported.

"Godless people are trying to use the lack of items that typically designate traditional religions as an argument," it said in a Facebook post. The purchase of a cheap and mobile church would enable its members to hold prayers in it, the party added, saying also that it was not afraid of "godless people armed with [large] needles".

Swerving compulsory military service

The two-year-old Girchi party opposes Georgia's compulsory military service and set up the church in April to enable it to appoint priests, who are exempt from serving.

Georgian men aged 18 to 27, bar some exceptions, have to serve in the army for two years and parliament recently introduced a draft law which would enable authorities to jail those who dodge the draft.

The authorities have not approved of the Girchi party's tongue-in-cheek efforts. The country's parliamentary Defence and Security Committee Chairman Irakli Sesiashvili said it had gone beyond the limit with this announcement and that it was "somewhat insulting to manipulate this issue in such way".

Imedi TV also cited a theologist, Lado Sanaia, disapproving of the announcement, saying it was "completely incompatible with the traditional idea of the church associated with religion not only in Georgian society but in all traditional and conservative societies".

Image copyright Imedi TV
Image caption Priests are exempt from serving in Georgia's military

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