Oliver Reisner, Tbilisi
Dr. Oliver Reisner graduated in 2000 from Georg-August University Göttingen (Germany) with a PhD thesis on the Georgian national movements’ collective biography on behalf of the “Society for the Spread of Literacy among the Georgian population” (1879-1916). From 2000 to 2003 he was involved in the establishment of a postgraduate MA program on “Central Asia / Caucasia” at Humboldt University Berlin. In 2003 he started working for World Vision International in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli, working on a civic integration youth project. From 2005 until today he is working as a project manager for the EU Delegation to Georgia. He is teaching MA and Phd students at Tbilisi and Ilia State Universities on memories of the Soviet past in Georgia and on Caucasian Studies as area studies between politics and scholarship. His talk represents his personal scholarly views only.
Latest publications include:
1) with Pamela Jawad, „Die Nationalisierung der Religion in der Orthodoxen Apostolischen Kirche Georgiens – Begünstigung oder Hindernis im Demokratisierungsprozess?“ Religiöse Akteure in Demokratisierungsprozessen. Konstruktiv, Destruktiv und Obstruktiv, Ed. Julia Leininger. Wiesbaden: Springer, 2013, 149-190.
2) „Zur Geschichte des Begriffs -eri in der modernen georgischen Historiographie.” Georgica, 35 (2012), 62-77.
3) “Die Erforschung Kaukasiens im Zarenreich und der frühen Sowjetunion – Der Wandel von Interessen und Konzepten in den Regionalwissenschaften,“ in Russlands imperiale Macht. Integrations-strategien und ihre Reichweite in transnationaler Perspektive. Ed. Bianka Pietrow-Ennker. Wien: Böhlau, 2012, 179-208.
4) “Between State and Nation Building: The Debate about ‘Ethnicity’ in Georgian Citizens’ ID Cards.” Exploring the Caucasus in the 21st Century: Essays on Culture, History and Politics in a Dynamic Context. Ed. Françoise Companjen, László Marácz, and Lia Versteegh. Amsterdam: Pallas Publication, 2010, 157-179.
5) “Travelling Between Two Worlds – the Tergdaleulebi, their Identity Conflict and National Life.“ Identity Studies, Vol. 1 (2009), 1, 36-50. https://sites.google.com/a/isystemsinstitute.org/identity-studies/oliver-reisner (Ilia Chavchavadze State University, Tbilisi/Georgia).
6) “Georgia and its new national movement.“ Nationalism in Late and Post-Communist Europe.Vol. 2 – Nationalism in the Nation States. Ed. Egbert Jahn. Baden-Baden: Nomos 2009, 242-268.
Malkhaz Songulashvili, Tbilisi
Most Reverend Dr. Malkhaz Songulashvili was born into a Baptist family in 1963. His father was Minister and Superintendent of the Tbilisi Region. His grandmother was a lay preacher in Soviet times. Songulashvili graduated from Tbilisi State University and taught at the same university for 18 years. He completed his doctoral dissertation in the UK through the Oxford Center of Mission Studies under the supervision of Prof Paul Fiddes. Songulashvili worked as a Bible translator for the Georgian Orthodox Church and the United Bible Societies for 28 years. He also served the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia as its leading Archbishop for 19 years, but resigned from the post in 2013 because of his stance on Homophobia and Islamophobia. In 2014, Songulashvili was appointed the associate professor in comparative theology at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Presently, Songulashvili is the diocesan Bishop of Tbilisi and head of Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi. He teaches both at the university and the Baptist Theological Academy. He has been active is reconciliation and peace work among Christians, Muslims and Jews, and has also been involved in justice and freedom work both nationally and internationally.
Songulashvili holds a number of honorary titles and awards, including the Golden Cross, presented by Patriarch Bartholomew, Istanbul, 1993; Ecumenical Canon of Norwich Cathedral, Norwich, 2005; Ecumenical Canon of Wakefield Cathedral, Wakefield, 2006; Lambeth Cross by Archbishop of Canterbury, London, 2006; Order of St George by Patriarch Philaret of Kiev and All-Ukraine, Kiev, 2008; Cross of Nails by Bishop of Coventry, Coventry, 2010; Order of Christ the Savior by Patriarch Philaret of Kiev and All-Ukraine, Kiev, 2011; Honorary Citizen of Tbilisi, by the Mayor of Tbilisi, Tbilisi, 2013; Order of St Nicolas by the President of Georgia, Tbilisi, 2013; Pro Fide 2014 Award, by the Friends of the Martyred Church, Helsinki, 2014.
Songulashvili is married to Ala Kavtaradze.
Rusudan Gotsiridze, Tbilisi
The Right Reverend Rusudan Gotsiridze is a bishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (ENCG). She is responsible for Central Georgia, which includes a region occupied by Russian troops since the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. She is the first woman in Georgia to be consecrated a bishop and a longtime researcher of women’s ordination practices in different Christian traditions. She holds a master’s degree in Christian Theology from Tbilisi State University. Since her episcopal ordination in 2009 she has been diocesan Bishop with responsibility for Ecumenical Relationships. In 2010 Bishop Rusudan was elected the Chairperson of the Synod of the EBCG and she is a member of Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches. In her secular work, Bishop Rusudan is involved in gender advocacy. She is a gender expert and trainer in the International Center on Conflicts and Negotiations (ICCN) advocating against gender violence and for women’s equality. She has been an adamant supporter of religious liberty in Georgia. In 2014 she received an “International Women of Courage” award by the U.S. State Department presented by Michelle Obama.