CURRENT UPDATE

TRAVEL AS AN INTERFAITH ACT

Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lebanon & Cyprus - 2018

Embrace Foundation is a non-profit,  
educational foundation set up to  
create better understanding  
between people of different  
religions, cultures, traditions and  
world philosophies.

Embrace Foundation works to bring  
leaders and scholars of world-wide  
religions, cultures and philosophies  
together by sponsoring forums,  
seminars, lectures and developing  
an international exchange program.  
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concerned with reaching the world  
public through the media.
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Travel As An Interfaith Act
Embrace encourages all who can  
do so, to learn about other  
traditions and cultures by traveling  
as “Grassroots Diplomats.” We  
hope that people every where  
become life long students of our  
world-wide humanity.

“ In every man there is something  
wherein I may learn of him, and in  
that I am his pupil.”
                                  R.W.Emerson
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Virginia (Embrace), Dr.Anwar Barkat (World Council of Churches, UN) & Imam I.H. Kauser
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Anne-Stuart & Ajata (Hosts), with Rabbi Gelberman & Dr.Jayaraman
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Ancient Zoroastrian (Parsi) Fire Temple, Suraxani - Azerbaijan
Father Taking His Baby to Visit
Mir Movsum Aga -Azerbaijan
Saudi people love Azerbaijan and they also love visiting Georgia, as do large numbers of Iranians.  
Will the grassroots people bridge the dissension and divisive propaganda that their governments  
have constantly sown?  We are told that many Iranians are buying a great deal of real estate in  
Georgia. Guess what? Iranians are wealthy. Westerners don’t know that do they?  We asked an  
Iranian Kurd, how can Iranians be so wealthy? He said, “I know, we really are. I wish we weren’t but  
we are.”  Ajata and Virginia said “How?” He said, “Almost all Iranians work hard for some small  
business, they save all their money and then they reinvest it, and keep saving and reinvesting (in  
their business.) So, there you’ve heard it. Iranians are not suffering (fortunately) under U.S. imposed  
sanctions. They work hard and they save money and they reinvest in their businesses.
Tbilisi Georgia has a robust and quite ancient Jewish Community that is very interesting (of Gurjim  
or Ebraeli Jews, as well as, the much later arriving Ashkenazi Jews.)  Some scholars believe the  
Gurjim came to Georgia after 586 B.C. in the 6th century.
It appears that Georgia is the perfect place for an inter-cultural, inter-faith event.  We hear  
Azerbaijan already has one in the works.
Tbilisi has books everywhere
The Founders were approached by a kind hearted  
congregation member sitting outside the Great  
Ashkenazi Synagogue who offered to take them to  the   
Beit Rachel Temple (Synagogue). Our very kind guide  
was all the more remarkable because Virginia was  
wearing a kurda  made in India based on Bedouin  
design, (see below under Haci Bedktas- Turkey).  She  
heard the men outside the  Synogogue describing her  
as a Palestinian. Of course, Ajata being Indian and with  
a beard probably sealed their perception. Or perhaps  
because Embrace has been speaking out for  
Palestinian Human rights for so long, the Founders  
have begun to look Palestinian! None-the-less,  
Palestinian or no, when asked if Ajata and Virginia  
could photograph the inside of the synogogue, they  
said yes. And some of the women seemed very pleased  
to see us admiring their special, holy place. It was a  
good thing our friend did lead us to the Beit Rachel  
Synagogue, because it would have been  difficult to  
locate the entrance  encroached on by a popular  
outdoor cafe at its’ doorstep.
The Grand, Beautiful Suleymaniye Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey
After revisiting favorite places for a little over a week, Ajata and Virginia flew with a plane full of  
Saudis to Baku, Azerbaijan.  The only other person who was not Saudi seemed to be a Kuwaiti  
artist, whom the Embrace Founders had ample time to talk to waiting in line at the Baku Airport  
Immigration.  (Trying to keep one’s place in line with Saudi women is a lost cause. The Kuwaiti  
artist, Ajata and Virginia started out near the middle of the line and all of them ended up the very  
last people to be processed.)
However, the Embrace Founders learned some wonderful things about the Saudi grassroots people.   
They learned that those Saudis who travel are curious and open to people from other countries.  
They are often eager (if they speak English) to converse, even young women who wear a niqab  
(veil.) 
Chess Players in Park, Baku, Azerbaijan
The chess match to the left is being  
played in the lush Bayside Park. The  
little boy always beats the older boy  
who plays good-humoredly just so the  
little one has someone to play against.
The younger boy is coached from the  
sidelines by an older Russian woman,  
who must be quite a pro.
Georgians Love Books
Tbilisi Great Synagogue - Georgia
The Wall of Sages - The Ashkenazi Great Synagogue
Beit Rachel Synagogue
Ajata & Virginia’s Very Kind Guide - Tblisi, Georgia
There are many phenomenal ancient churches in Georgia. The King of Georgia was one of the first  
Heads of State to become Christian.  So Christianity has a long history in Georgia -an approximation  
being since 377 A.D.
Sacred Shrine of Islamic Saint (Sufi) Mir Movsum Agam-Azerbaijan
A question that should be raised is that of the  
supposed Shi’ah / Sunni divide. If the Saudi  
grassroots people have such a problem with the  
Shi’ah people, as the leaders in Saudi Arabia and  
the UAE are constantly espousing, why are Saudi  
grassroots people so eager to visit a Shi’ah country  
such as Azerbiajan?
Traveling in the Footsteps of the Christian Apostles & Mary, Mother of Jesus (Isa)
Visiting Shrines of Islamic Saints, Druze Saints, an ancient Zoroastrian Temple and Recording the Beauty of Orthodox Christian Churches of Antiquity,
Plus a visit to Two Georgian Synagogues
This CURRENT will follow the exact order of the itinerary of the Embrace Founders. Therefore, it  
will start with Turkey, go to Azerbaijan, then Georgia, back to Turkey, on to Lebanon and Cyprus,  
returning once again to Turkey.
TURKEY
Ajata and Virginia began this trip visiting places they knew and loved in Istanbul.   Among those was  
the beautiful Suleymaniye Mosque which is favored by many people in Istanbul and some Sufi  
orders.
AZERBAIJAN
GEORGIA
Christian Nun (Georgian Orthodox)  at Sioni Cathedral in Tblisi
The Gelati Monastery (Orthodox Christian) founded in 1106 outside of Kutaisi, Georgia is special. The Young Monk above gave Ajata permission to photograph him while praying in a small tower reserved as a place for the monks to pray.
Christian (Georgian Orthodox) Monk Entertaining Women in the Congregation with Answers to Their Questions outside Metekhi Church - Tblisi, Georgia
The curiosity of the Tbilisi Great Synagogue is that while  
the Azhkenazi Jewish community came much, much later  
to Georgia than the original Jews, in this synagogue they  
have a Sephartic service.  
They also have it seems, a mostly   modern dressed  
congregation while the “Wall of Sages” very clearly  
shows their past religious leaders as being orthodox. The  
congregation seems to partake (or at least some of them  
do) in mixed practises.
Gelati Monastery (Orthodox Christian) 1106 A.D. Georgia
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As always, the agenda for the trip was:

To meet with religious leaders, spiritual leaders and scholars throughout the areas we travel.

To encourage grassroots interest in organizing intercultural and interfaith events in their respective  
communities.

To photograph as a record, places considered sacred by the people living in these countries.

To photograph precious anthropological/ archaeological sites that are vulnerable to war and  
ecological damage.
Embrace Foundation
Swami Satchidananda, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan & Ajata