The ٌR.C.S. protests against the Turkish decision to convert Agia Sophia to a mosque

The Administrative Board of the Romaïan Cultural Society issued the following statement:

The Romaïan Cultural Society expresses its deep regret following the decision taken by the Turkish government to convert, unlawfully, the Agia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople again to an Islamic mosque, in a city crowded with mosques and not lacking Islamic places of worship for its residents.

The Society considers the Turkish decision a huge mistake and a three-dimensional sin that requires absolute rejection:

First, it is a sinful decision against Turkey itself that makes it an intolerant state ruled by religious and ethnic fanaticism, and pushing the struggle of civilizations and religious cultures forward. Turkey appears, in this decision, as a state rejecting its minorities and insulting the history of its ancient peoples. Turkey included, in the past, large religious minorities and different ethnicities who had their own civilizations and heritage. Numerous genetic studies confirm that the present “Turkish populations” are, in fact, the descendants of Anatolian peoples, and are not, except in a percentage reduced to a maximum of twenty percent, of the Turkish Asian ethnicity. Those ancient peoples of “Turkey” were Christians and belonged, before the arrival of Turks, to the Romaïan civilization. The Church of Agia Sofia was their greatest cathedral, the symbol of their civilization and the pride of their culture. Therefore, the Turkish government decision to turn the Agia Sophia into a mosque is a major offence against the historical memory of these ancient peoples, as well as against their rich diversity of heritage.

Second, it is a sinful decision against the Islamic-Christian relations that the wise leaders of both religions advocate for brotherhood, tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. Christians, especially the Orthodox, who are in direct geographical and human contact with Muslims in the Levant, North Africa and Eastern Europe, are offended by this decision because they consider Agia Sophia as their major ancestral religious center, the symbol of their ancient presence and the fruit of their bi-millennial history. This conversion of the cathedral into a mosque deeply challenges their belief in the peacefulness of this Islamic-Christian relationship. It will create, among them, suspicion and rejection, and even hatred. It also threatens, in the medium and long term, every call for tolerance, coexistence, and even for mutual acceptance. How do the rulers of Turkey expect that the Christians accept this decision?

Do the rulers of Turkey accept that the Jews take Al-Aqsa Mosque and convert it into a synagogue? Do they accept that the Egyptian Christians, in case they are destined, once in time, to rule Egypt, convert the Al-Azhar Mosque into a church? If the Hindus or Buddhists were once in time destined to reach the Hejaz, would the rulers of Turkey accept to convert the Prophet’s Mosque to a Hindu or Buddhist temple?

Third, it is a sinful decision against the global culture of humanity and the dialogue of civilizations. UNESCO considered the Church of Agia Sophia a major cultural landmark dating back to the early Christian centuries and a symbol of Romaïan civilization for more than a thousand years. Constantinople was, in fact, the capital of the Romaïan civilization, and Agia Sophia remains the religious symbol of this civilization. Would anyone who respects culture and believes in the dialogue of civilizations accept that the old Romaïan civilization, which remains a major component of the Mediterranean civilization, the Eastern European civilization and the Near Eastern civilization, be obliterated, and that its main religious symbol be lost, while its believers are forbidden from practicing their religious services in it?

For these reasons, we strongly condemn the decision to change the identity of Agia Sophia, and we draw attention to the serious consequences of this decision. If the Turkish state aspires to be a modern, peaceful, multi-cultural country that believes in dialogue of religions and cultures, wishing to attract its neighbors with whom it shares history, culture and religion, and hoping to accede to the European Union, it should have taken the wise decision to return this museum to its original status of a Christian orthodox church. The domes of Agia Sophia would then resonate with the minarets of the multiple surrounding mosques. Its return to its previous religious owners would make the Romaïan peoples believe that the modern Turkey is a state full of respect to culture, a landmark of Christian-Islamic dialogue and a habitat of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

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