An open letter: the Hagia Sophia.

Ambassador Hambley has asked us to publish this open letter from his colleagues working in Germany and Scotland to the Turkish President. The views expressed are their own however the NCF’s religious affairs advisor comments: This was a blatantly political decision wrapped in a religious cloak. However, it is the culmination of a 16 year legal case to restore it as a Mosque and as such should be acknowledged as a valid legal decision by Turkish terms, even though many disagree with it. Turkish courts do award cases against government actions occasionally, so there is a degree of judicial independence. Turkey’s political isolation from the West continues and while protestations against the conversion are manifold, there is little chance of a reversal. However, the site is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s possible UNESCO has more leverage:

“We are permitting ourselves to express our grave concern about the recent decision of the Turkish Government to re-convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. We are writing to you as individuals in our private capacity, committed to dialogue and peace on Planet Earth, and not on behalf of the institutions, networks and projects mentioned in this letter.

“More than most other monuments not just in Istanbul and Turkey, but anywhere in the
world, the Hagia Sophia is an interface of Orient and Occident, of Christianity and Islam.
Furthermore, it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The arrangement instated by President Kemal Atatürk in 1935 – as a museum – was a very good and balanced solution, reflecting its past as a church from 537-1453, and as a mosque since then, but also the sadly at times violent episodes in its history and generally between the two major religions of our part of the world. Given its history, and that of the city around it, it has been a holy site and focal point for both Islam and Christianity over the almost 1,500 years of its existence.

“The recent decision to re-convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque will inevitably cause
offense among much of the Christian (in particular Orthodox) community, and we would
appeal to the Turkish Government to re-consider this step.

“In light of this history, it is impossible for either side to claim sole ownership of this
monument. Whatever arrangement is found, it should equally reflect the significance and holiness of the Hagia Sophia to the faithful of both religions: The museum was a very good arrangement, but we could equally imagine an inter-face venue of worship.

Sincerely,

Frithjof Kuepper and Hartmut Dreier.”

 

 

 

Hartmut Dreier, born in 1938, since 1977 resident in Marl/Ruhrgebiet, Protestant Christian theologian, pastor emeritus, one of the pioneers in Christian-Muslim dialogue, friendship and cooperation since 1984 on the local, regional and national level and in German-Turkish cooperation. Selected activities:

• Intercultural, interreligious projects Marl/Gireson and Marl/Kusadasi
• Solidarity after the Marmara earthquake in August 1999 in Adapazari
• Establishing close working relations with DITIB, Cologne, IGMG (Islamische
Gemeinschaft Milli Görüs), Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland
• Co-founder of CIAG Marl in 1984, for example enabling the construction of Fatih
Moschee Marl, the first new mosque building in Germany
• Co-founder of the annual Abraham’s festival in Marl, Kreis Recklinghausen, in 2001 (in this context Bundespräsident Johannes Rau visited the Fatih Mosque in
December 2001 – this was the first time that a German federal president visited a
Mosque in Germany; Diyanet president Prof. Dr. Ali Bardakoglu gave a keynote
speech in the Fatih Mosque and signed the “Goldene Buch” of the city of Marl)
• Sukran-Plakette of the Republic of Turkey, awarded by the General Consul of Turkey, Mr. Günes Altan, in Münster (March 5, 1997)
• For our current work as an intercultural and interreligious team and for further
awards see https://www.ciag-marl.de/

Frithjof Kuepper, born in 1972, Professor and Chair in Marine Biodiversity at the University of Aberdeen, resident in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and Marl, Germany. Selected activities:

• First prizes at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists and the Young
Europeans’ Environmental Research Competition (both 1992).
• Marine biologist with extensive academic research and teaching activities in SE
Europe and the Middle East, besides other parts of the world. Personal and
professional network in the region includes a sizeable number of both Muslims and
Christians, with whom he fundamentally recognizes the common roots of our faith
and with whom he shares the desire to learn from a difficult history to build a more
peaceful and harmonious ecumenical coexistence based on shared values and
mutual understanding.
• Strong commitment to the peace process in Cyprus and to Greek-Turkish
rapprochement in general, with numerous contacts in both communities in Cyprus – led the first academic publication since the Cyprus War in 1974 which is jointly
authored by scientists from both communities in Cyprus as well as from Turkey and
Greece.

 

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