Dienstag, 21. Januar 2014

Saint Abo of Tbilisi, Georgia

Saint Abo of Tbilisi (also referred to as Abo Tbileli, or Habo Tbileli) (ca. 756-January 6, 786) is a Christian martyr to Islam, and is considered the Patron Saint of the city of Tbilisi, Georgia.

Abo was Arab by descent, and was raised in the Muslim religion in Baghdad. He followed the Georgian Prince Nerses, the ruler of Kartli, to Tbilisi in Georgia, when the prince, who had been jailed by the Caliph Al Mansur (754–775) for allegedly slandering him, was released when a new Caliph succeeded him. Upon his return to Tbilisi, he took Abo with him as part of his retinue.

Abo's profession at Baghdad was that of a perfumer. Not only was he proficient enough in his trade to attract the attention of Prince Nerses, he was also pious and was said to have gained a good grasp of Muslim religious traditions and its teachings. Sometime following his arrival to Eastern Georgia, he learned Georgian and began to experience their life and culture, so thoroughly imbued by the Christianity that vivified it. During this time, Abo became convinced of Christianity's veracity. His conversion was the result of an internal struggle and interaction with Christian priests and bishops with respect to a variety of questions. The result of his internal struggle with Christianity was to convince him that truth was to be found in Christianity.
Since that part of Georgia was then under Islamic rule, Abo was hesitant to convert publicly. He however stopped the Muslim practice of salat (five daily prayers) and he replaced it with Christian prayer disciplines. For political reasons, Prince Nerses was forced to seek refuge in Khazaria north of the Caspian Sea, an area that was outside of Muslim influence. Abo accompanied his employer. The departure allowed Abo to practice his Christian faith freely, and at Khazaria he was baptized. Following a stay at Khazaria, Prince Nerses travelled to Abkhazia, and, once again Abo followed the prince. At Abkhazia which was also free of Muslim control, Abo grew in his knowledge of Christianity.

Prince Nerses returned to Tbilisi in 782, and Abo, though aware that there was some risk to his life in following the prince to Tbilisi, decided to go. During the next three years, Abo openly confessed his Christian faith in the streets of Tbilisi, thereby giving Christians and encouraging conversions from Islam.

He was threatened numerous times, and the threats ultimately led to his denouncement to the authorities as a Muslim apostate, that is, a Christian. He was arrested by the Islamic officials, and was tried for apostasy. He confessed his Christian faith at trial, and was imprisoned and subsequently martyred on January 6, 786. On his way to the place of execution, he thanked God for having brought him out of his earthly occupation as a perfumer to a more transcendent occupation of following the "sweet fragrance of Christ's commandments."

The Christian martyr's body was put into a sack, dragged outside the city, and burned it near the banks of the Mtkvari River. The ashes were then placed in sheepskin and cast into the river. Eventually, a chapel was built on the hillside of the banks of the Mtkvari river.

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