Hate has no place in the house of God – Desmond Tutu
The anti-apartheid hero and man of God was talking in metaphors, and about South Africa, but his balming words fit Hagia Sofya in Istanbul just as well.
When Turkey President Recip Erdogan championed Hagia Sofia’s return.
From a museum to a mosque it drew 250,000 of the faithful to pray on the streets of Istanbul.
And it roused an outcry from the Christian churches, the Roman Catholic, the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox.
Which rung way beyond the ancient high walls of the iconic Istanbul building.
Iconic, yes, to the Orthodox churches.
For whom it is one of their holiest places and who focus on icons for their worship.
So the sight of drapes covering the mosaic of Our Lady was bound to have raised their ire.
Of course central to Islam is that Allah and the Prophet Mohamed, and Jesus or Our Lady, cannot be represented by images.
Istanbul is unique among the great cities of the world, one foot in Europe, one in Asia.
Which is why the great Christiian churches of old which called Constantinople, Istanbul’s old name, home are prefixed with their country of origin.
There is, as there always has been in this part of the world, a powerplay going on.
And we, those of us who have been to Istanbul, and those who have yet to, must not fall for it.
Because this should not, or ever be, about Islam v Christian.
And yes President Erdogan is tapping into Islamic popularism but that does not have to equate to anti-Christianity.
And we will still be able to visit it as a mosque which we will do.