Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the world's most ancient Christian Churches, founded in the 1st century by the Apostle Andrew the First Called. In the first half of the 4th century Christianity was adopted as the state religion. This has provided a strong sense of national identity that has helped to preserve a national Georgian identity despite repeated periods of foreign occupation and attempted assimilation.
One of the oldest churches in Christendom, the Jvari church in Mtskheta, Georgia’s ancient capital.
According to the Constitution of Georgia, religious institutions are separate from government and every citizen has the right of religion. Most of the population of Georgia (83.9%) practices Orthodox Christianity and the Georgian Orthodox Church is an influential institution in the country.
The Gospel was preached in Georgia by the Apostles, Andrew, Simon the Canaanite, and Matthias. Iberia was officially converted to Christianity in 326 by Saint Nino of Cappadocia, who is considered to be the Enlightener of Georgia and the Equal to Apostles by the Orthodox Church. The Georgian Orthodox Church, once being under the See of Antioch, gained an autocephalous status in the 4th century during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.
Religious minorities of Georgia include Russian Orthodox (2%), Armenian Christians (3.9%), Muslims (9.9%), Roman Catholics (0.8%), as well as sizeable Jewish communities and various Protestant minorities.
Despite the long history of religious harmony in Georgia, there have been several instances of religious discrimination in the past decade — such as acts of violence against Jehovah's Witnesses and threats against adherents of other "nontraditional faiths" by followers of the defrocked Orthodox priest Vasil Mkalavishvili.