Abo of Tiflis was an Arab, born in Baghdad. He became a perfumer as a youth and entered the service of Nerses, a prince of Kartla based in Tiflis (or Tblisi or Tbilela), in modern Georgia. That's the Georgia that used to be part of the Soviet Union, not the Georgia from which vidalia onions come. Abo began serving Nerses while Nerses was imprisoned in Baghdad because he had been slandered in front of the caliph, and then traveled with Nerses back to Tiflis when a new caliph came to power and released Nerses. While there, Abo became convinced of the truth of the Christian faith, but he was afraid to be openly Christian because of the fact that Georgia was under Islamic rule at the time. It should be noted that Islam was generally quite tolerant of both Christians and Jews during this period, giving them special license to practice their own religion and giving them special status as "People of the Book" since they followed religions that were tied to Islam in several important ways. The thing that Abo feared was the Muslim rage toward those who turn away from Islam. By turning away from Islam, Abo was committing a sin that would bring the wrath of the entire community down on him. When the prince that Abo served was forced to seek asylum with the Khazars that lived north of the Caspian Sea because he was once again slandered in front of the caliph, Abo went with him. Abo felt that he would be safe if he proclaimed himself to be Christian while there. Abo was baptized while still among the Khazars and began to be openly Christian while wandering with Nerses in the region of Abkhazia, although it later turned out to be a bad move, self-preservation-wise, since the prince and his entourage returned to Georgia in 782. By this time, Abo was known both by the Bishop of Abkhazia and by Nerses as being deeply Christian and both of them urged him to remain in Abkhazia so as not to be killed upon return to Georgia. The region was still being ruled by an Islamic government, and when in 786 they tried him for being a renegade against Islam, he admitted quite openly that he was. He was imprisoned for about ten days before being brought to be executed on January 6, 786. When they put his head on the chopping block, they sought to make him recant by hitting him with the flat side of the sword in order to scare him, but he still would not give in. His head was chopped off and his body smeared with naphtha and set on fire, after which his bones were thrown off a bridge into the river Kura. When people kill martyrs, they make really, really, really sure they're dead for some reason.

Because he was a martyr, Abo was automatically canonized by the Orthodox Church. Saint Abo's feastday is January 8. He is much more popular in Georgia than elsewhere.

Sources: http://users.erols.com/saintpat/ss/0108.htm, http://www.oca.org/pages/orth_chri/Feasts-and-Saints/January/Jan-08.html

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