Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili

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Early Life

Soon after Malkhaz Songulashvili’s birth, in 1963 the Soviet Union launched a policy of zero
tolerance towards religions and the State planned to have him taken from his family. This was
because of his father’s dedication to the Christian faith. However, his family was able to prevent
Songulashvili from being taken away. His father, Lado Songulashvili, was an ordained Baptist
minister who helped smuggle Christian literature into Georgia during the Soviet times. As a
child, Malkhaz and his siblings refused to join the Communist Youth Organization known as the
Komsomol. This made Songulashvili’s childhood very difficult. Songulashvili also faced
discrimination from teachers for his dedication to his Christian faith. Severely limiting his social
standing, this also affected Songulashvili’s future career options within the Soviet Union.
However, Songulashvili applied to Tbilisi State University despite the fact that it was unlikely
that he would be accepted without a letter of recommendation from the Komsomol. He was
accepted to the University, much to his surprise and the school later realized about their
oversight on his letter of recommendation from the Komsomol. Two years had passed since this
mistake, but due to his excellent performances in the classroom, Songulashvili was permitted to
stay.

Education

Songulashvili attended the Vakhtang Songulashvili School in Digomi in 1980 and continued his
studies at Tbilisi State University where he earned a Master’s degree in History and Pedagogy in
1987. At the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tbilisi he studied Biblical Hebrew under Dr. Nisan
Babalikashvili from 1983 to 1986. In addition, Songulashvili performed doctoral research under
Prof. Paul Fiddes and Dr. Paul Freston through the Oxford Centre of Mission Studies and
Regent’s Park College, Oxford. While at the University, Songulashvili studied Old Greek, Old
Georgian, Biblical Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, French, and German. In addition, he is fluent in
Georgian, English and Russian. In 2013 Bishop Songulashvili returned to Tbilisi.

Career

After Songulashvili graduated from Tbilisi State University, he became a lecturer on Medieval
History, History of the Early Church, Later Church History, Old Testament, and Biblical Hebrew at
his alma mater until 2006. Since 1993, Songulashvili has been invited to numerous universities
around the world to lecture on these topics, including: The University of Amsterdam, University
of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Meredith College, University of South Carolina, Mars Hill

University, Mercer University, and Duke University. As an authority on religion, Songulashvili has
participated in numerous conferences and retreats worldwide as both liturgical leader and
keynote speaker. He was a participant in the 8th and 9th Assemblies of the World Council of
Churches as well as the 7th and 8th World Assemblies of the United Bible Societies. In both 1988
and 2005, Songulashvili attended the Baptist World Congress, and also attended the 2010
Edinburgh Conference.
Songulashvili was the leader of an archaeological group in the Iori Gorge Expedition with the
Centre of Archaeological Studies at the Georgian National Academy of Sciences during the first
half of the 1980’s.
Songulashvili worked as a Bible Translator for the Georgian Orthodox Church from 1986 to 1989
and a Bible Translator for the UBS Representation in Georgia from 1996 to 2001. He also
translated C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia in the year 2000. Songulashvili has published several
religious texts that he has Translated, such as the Modern Georgian Bible (1989), Revised Version
of the Georgian New Testament (1993), and the New Georgian Bible (2001). And meaning based
translation of the News Testament (2018) On top of all of these transcribed works, Songulashvili
published his doctorate through the Baylor University Press titled Evangelical Christian Baptists
of Georgia: The History and Transformation of a Free Church Tradition. It comes as no surprise
that he became Director of the Publishing House “Biblioteca Cristiana” in 1992 where he
continued to write and Translate until 1996.

Songulashvili was Consecrated on November 14th, 1994 and was the Principal of the Baptist
Theological Seminary from 1992 to 1999. From 2002 to 2006, Songulashvili served as the Principal
of the School of Elijah the Prophet in Tbilisi. Songulashvili served as Primate of the Evangelical
Baptist Church of Georgia from 1994 to 2013. Most notably, Malkhaz Songulashvili was installed
as archbishop of Georgia on October 15th in 2005 which he held until he resigned from his
archiepiscopal responsibilities on December 20th of 2013 over disagreements with the Synod of
the church. In addition to his role in the EBCG, he served as the Representative of the United
Bible Societies in Georgia from 1996 to 2003. He joined the Third order of the Society of St. Francis
in 2004 and has been a member ever since.
Malkhaz Songulashvili currently serves as the Metropolitan Bishop of Tbilisi and the Senior Pastor
of Peace Cathedral. He focuses on promoting interfaith dialogue. Bishop Songulashvili is serving
as the Director of the Beteli International Humanitarian Association and has since its founding in
1999. This organization is a refugee center for the elderly, those fleeing from conflict, and all
other marginalized members of society who won’t receive help elsewhere. Once he stepped
down from his position as Archbishop of the EBCG in 2013, Songulashvili having served as a
Professor of Comparative Theology at the Ilia Chavchavadze State University where he
emphasized Christian, Muslim, and Jewish theology.

House of One Peace Award, Berlin 2023
House of One Peace Award, Berlin 2023

FREEDOM, PEACE AND JUSTICE WORK

After the Second Russian Chechen War in 1999 there was a large increase in Chechen refugees
surging into Georgia. Malkhaz Songulashvili helped raise almost $300,000 U.S. dollars for these
refugees. Bishop Songulashvili helped the Cathedral Baptist Church (now known as the Peace
Cathedral) organize a school for refugee children and provided medical assistance to hundreds
of people in need. The arrival of the Chechen refugees is what ultimately inspired the creation of
the Beteli Center which is meant to be a home for elderly refugees and provides a place of shelter
for those who have no one advocating for them in society. Bishop Songulashvili helped raise
money for the Beteli Center and oversaw its creation.
Malkhaz Songulashvili made it his and the Evangelical Christian Baptist Church of Georgia’s
priority to promote democracy and equality. They promote this message throughout Georgia and
on an international level. He has done this through various causes including the Freedom and

Justice Movement in Kiev, Ukraine where he was working alongside Archpriest B. Kobakhidze and
Archpriest Z. Tevzadze in 2004. This was an attempt to help Ukraine gain free elections are create
a parliamentary republic instead of one where the president has most of the power.
In March of 2006 Songulashvili went to Belarus to attend a demonstration that promoted fair
and free elections. During the demonstration Bishop Songulashvili along with Archpriest B.
Kobakhidze and Mr L. Gogiashvili were arrested and detained. They technically did nothing illegal
though and were therefore deported to Ukraine and were prevented from entering the country
again for the next five years instead of being arrested.
After Georgia was invaded by Russian troops in 2008, Songulashvili visited places such as the city
Gori which was under Russian control. He was instrumental in provided aid to those in need.
Songulashvili helped the Gori Baptist Church to provide aid to those with no one to turn to.
One of Malkhaz Songulashvili’s main commitments is to interfaith dialogue. Songulashvili
delivered a Khutbah-sermon in the North Oxford Mosque in 2012. In 2013 he held negotiations
about Muslim – Christian dialogue in Qom, Iran. This was meant to further build a relationship
between the two communities and open up more meaningful relationships.
Malkhaz Songulashvili was an early supporter of the Rose Revolution and because of that, faced
many attacks such as the “burn[ing of] Bibles and books (including thousands of copies of books

the bishop had written), organized raids on religious minorities and beat up clergy from non-
Orthodox denominations. They insulted Baptist clergy, women and children and published a list

of ‘enemies of Georgia’ which
included the bishop” (Henderson). Government television channels even “called for the physical
elimination of [Malkhaz Songulashvili]” (Songulashvili 294). This movement was appears to have
been supported by the state though it cannot be proven. Once they were arrested though,
Songulashvili was asked to speak at the trial. He spoke for three hours about Christianity and its
values. When asked by the judge what he wished to happen the accused he said, “I demand that
these people be pardoned and released from the prison” (Henderson). Due to the request that

they all be released “the Christian concept of forgiveness received major press coverage”

(Songulashvili 295). This acted as a major “step in favor of reconciliation between Baptists and
Orthodoxy” (Songulashvili 295).
May 17th is the International Day against Homophobia and there was meant to be a thirty minute
long silent protest in Tbilisi to stand against homophobia in Georgia. Instead, thousands were
organized against them and it devolved into violent protests that shook the world. Two days
before the violence broke out Songulashvili issued a statement which said, “When a person’s
value is degraded and insulted because of his or her sexual orientation, whether directly or
indirectly, it is the most holy duty of every citizen and of every religious person to stand up for
justice and the equality of minorities who are wronged and belittled”.

House of One Peace Prize

At the award ceremony in honor of Songulashvili, in his laudatory speech the former President
of the Federal Republic of Germany, Christian Wulff said: ” We honor Bishop Malkhaz
Songulashvili for his tireless, courageous commitment to tolerance and dialogue. We are
honoring a special person with outstanding services to humanity, fraternity and the dignity of
every human being… He takes unpopular positions on equality for women and oppressed
minorities”.

In response to rising Islamophobia, Anti Semitism and xenophobia Songulashvili introduced the
Peace Project, which brought into being the Peace Mosque, Peace Synagogue and Peace Place,
all under the same roof. The project was meant to demonstrate a tangible way, a deep
commitment to interfaith peace. The Peace Project was completed and inaugurated in 2022-
2023 in partnership with the “House of One (Berlin) and numerous Jewish, Muslim and Christian
friends of the Peace Cathedral”, Thus the Peace Cathedral became a unique place of religious
peace and inclusion.

AWARDS AND ACCOLADES

Golden Cross 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 Saviour 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 Martyred Church, Helsinki, 2014
Shahbes Bhati Freedom Award by the First Step Forum, Berlin, 2015
Ambassador of the House of One, Berlin 2016
Guardian of Tolerance Award by the Public Defender’s Office, Tbilisi, 2017
The Equality Award, Tbilisi, 2019
House Of One Peace Award, Berlin 2023

House of One Peace Award, Berlin 2023
House of One Peace Award, Berlin 2023