Vienna (kath.net/KAP) The Austrian aid organization "Christians in Need" (CiN; formerly "Christian Solidarity International"/CSI) now fears the destruction of the 1,300-year-old mosaics in Hagia Sophia. "It is to be feared that the Christian mosaics in the dome of Hagia Sophia will now be destroyed once and for all. If Sultan Mehmed II had covered the Christian mosaics with plaster after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, it is now to be feared that the mosaics themselves will now be destroyed, following the example of the assault on images by the 'IS'. Under no circumstances can these remain visible, because otherwise the regulations of the pictureless mosque - at the latest from the 8th century. If the ban on images is unreservedly enshrined in Islam - it is not enough to do so," CiN Secretary General Elmar Kuhn said in a statement on Sunday. The background is the decided conversion of the former Constantinople Cathedral, which in Ottoman times was a mosque and then a museum for 86 years, into an Isamian place of prayer.
With the fall of "ISIS" (Islamic State), the world had hoped that politics would return to reason. This also includes the fact that politics ceases to use religion as a tool. With the reassignment of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to a mosque, it is to be feared that the image-storm mentality of ISIS will become acceptable, the statement continued.
World expects the peaceful contribution of religions
Overall, a great opportunity has been lost to find a way of dialogue and mutual respect. Then the reassignment from a museum to a house of prayer could have been a constructive sign. Hagia Sophia, also because of its great history, would be a true and unifying World Heritage Site. For the world rightly expects the contribution of religions to peace, justice and the preservation of creation, rather than to new violations and conflicts.
Although around 75 percent of the Turkish population would welcome the current re-Islamization of the originally Christian Hagia Sophia, this shows that the gap between the people, who rely on a respectful dialogue between religions and a religiously nationalist instrumentalized population in Turkey, goes deep. "This makes the development of a modern Turkey and its treatment of religious minorities worse. It is also clear that Kemal Atatürk's separation of state and religion is also clear, but as the situation in Europe shows, it certainly allows and can even promote cooperation for the benefit of the people," Kuhn emphasizes.
In the dedication of Hagia Sophia as a museum, a modus vivendi had been found since 1934, which also showed respect for the religious feelings of Orthodox Christians - and many Western Christians. "The fact that this respect is now deliberately being trampled underfoot is unfortunately an affront of the first kind. The impact on the Sunni-Christian dialogue, which has so far been so positive, is not yet foreseeable. A wave of fundamentalization is now to be feared on both sides, both with Christians and Muslims." But - Kuhn continues: "We hope and pray that the reconciliation projects of "Christians In Need" in Muslim countries will not be affected by this cultural vandalism." [In many respects CiN sounds like just another NGO]