The recent decision of Turkey's government led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to change the status of the Hagia Sophia and return it to use as a mosque has certainly ruffled a few feathers across the world.
And I'm with Erdoğan on this.
Here's some of the reactions:
Russian Foreign Ministry - "We regret the decision of the Turkish Republic’s leadership."
Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church - "A threat against Hagia Sophia is a threat to all Christian civilization."
World Council of Churches - "By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey's openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division."
Pope Francis says he was "very distressed."
US Senators said the move was "a deep affront to Christians around the world who look to Hagia Sophia as a shining light and deeply revered holy site."
The Greek government says that "such a move would strain relations between Christians and Turkey."
Greece's Culture Ministry described the court decision as an "open provocation" to the civilised world.
The problem for me is one of self-determination for a nation state and its peoples and also one of the freedom of people to manifest their religion in their day to day lives.
Turkey is the successor to the Ottoman state, taking or continuing control of the Ottoman empire's assets. These include Istanbul and also the Hagia Sophia. The Turks took Constantinople and the Hagia Sophia back in 1453. The Latin West lamented such an event but had a few hundred years previous did exactly the same. Captured Constantinople, deflied the Hagia Sophia and then carried out the Latin Rite regardless of the wishes of the Byzantine Orthodox. Then the West decided it wasn't interested in the East and the Byzantines regained their capital and church. A few hundred years later the Turks finally breach the walls of Constantinople and everything repeats except that the Byzantine empire finally takes it's last breath.
However much its lamented the Turkish state is entirely within its rights to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque. As a nation state it has authority over its own domain.
The other aspect is the freedom of religion. The secular West and its organisations, NGOs and Quangos are secular in nature. They would love nothing more than for the Hagia Sophia to remain the secular icon of a museum. They don't want Islam being practiced, and they don't want the Christian faith being practiced. That's why there's all these mealy mouthed words about the Hagia Sophia being a 'shared space', a place where humanity can meet in peace etc. In my view these sorts of calls are for a One World Religion. The secular West is more of a threat to orthodox Christianity than Islam ever is or was.
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