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Thursday, July 23, 2020
Convert Hagia Sophia As the Inter- Religious Faith Centre of Peace and Harmony for The Well Being of Humanity
By Fr Manesh Jerald SJ, New Age Islam
23 July 2020
The conversion of world’s great and unique architectural wonder, “HAGIA SOPHIA” into a Mosque definitely agitates the hearts of peace-loving humanity. Truly, it has imbalanced the religious sentiments of all people. In the present world when all people irrespective of their colour, creed, religion, politics and culture are joining their heart and mind together to eradicate the common enemy, Covid-19 for the well-being of entire humanity, the conversion of world’s this unique antique monument only for the one sect of human race breaks the unity and faith that humanity together shared for each other. This transition hurting the peace of the world should be reconsidered.
The Covenant of Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, also called the Ashtiname of Muhammad. A copy of this document is kept at the Saint Catherine's Monastery.
The meaning of the word “Hagia Sophia” is ‘Holy Wisdom’. In the Holy Scriptures, both in the Holy Bible and in the Holy Quran, it is written that Allah has created this entire world out of Allah’s wisdom. In this wisdom, Allah has envisaged the pure spirit of unity in diversity. In this created world, Allah has made sure that all kinds of life shall live together. This is peace. Accepting this difference and sharing in this difference maintain the peace of every living being. Yes, it is time to accept this world order in the name of ‘HAGIA SOPHIA- the divine wisdom”.
Human history ever tells the story of mighty people but accepted and respected only those people, in their heart, who practiced the wisdom of peace, love and compassion for all. When the power rules the world, it is peace and harmony that the hearts ever long for existence.
From the very inception of “Hagia Sophia”, the history has observed a series of power struggle upon this aesthetic wonder. It has always been looked as the pride of faithful communities who ruled over the nation.
Hagia Sophia was built at Constantinople, the present Istanbul, Turkey, in the 6th century under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian 1. It was the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for more than a millennium. In 1204, it was looted by the Venetians and the Crusaders on the Fourth Crusade. In 1453, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II conquered this Byzantine architecture and converted it into a mosque. In 1934 Turkish President and the father of modern Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk having realized its religious, political, aesthetic and cultural heritage, elevated this feel of human spirit, Hagia Sophia into a museum. Thus, the then President respected the sentiments of every minds and hearts both by building peace among humanity and uplifting human fraternity. On the 10 of July this monument of human fraternity was shaken by the decision of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when he altered this into a mosque. We observe here that in its 1,450-year life span, HAGIA SOPHIA has served as a cathedral, mosque, a museum and now again as a mosque.
The Hagia Sophia is an enormous architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey
In all these power struggles, the predominant feel one gets from the history of ‘Hagia Sophia’ is both the religious and the political egoism in the name of Great Allah. The spirit of wisdom of God is least cared about here. We experience an exception in this case at the time of the President Kemal Ataturk. All the Christians believe that God is Love and all the Muslims believe that Allah is compassionate. These two aspects are two sides of ONE GOD. Without love there cannot be compassion and without Compassion, love is not love at all. Love and compassion is incomplete, if it is limited to only one sect of people. This type of expression of sectarian love and compassion can never be of divine wisdom. I understand that if we want to be faithful to this divine wisdom, we must have an inclusive platform for their faith expression and where people of these different religious communities do experience a brotherly love for each other and do their worship here. This is divine wisdom.
It is not enough converting an aesthetic structure having different heritages of centuries into a museum. Yes, it can be considered as a great step towards peace and harmony. This building is the amalgamation of different faith expressions and art. Maintaining this monument merely as a museum doesn’t bring justice to the peace and harmony of people. It is a passive state where all the egoism of the people are buried but not purified. When the museum is again converted into a mosque, this suppressed egoism is hurt and escalated as pain for all. Can we say again that converting this mosque again to museum is the only solution for peace? Never.
The only solution for the peace and harmony of all the people and believers concerned of HAGIA SOPHIA is to elevate this monument into a common platform for inter- cultural-religious- centre of active faith expression. In this new ambience, humanity in general and religions in particular live in peace by caring all and by exchanging both love and respect for all. Thus ‘Hagia Sophia, the Divine Wisdom’ shall be respected in its true spirit and letter. It will remain forever an actively living monument of peace and harmony among humanity. When our common house, the earth permits us and gives us all the facilities to worship that transcendental God in different names and forms according to different cultural and social context, don’t we have to learn from this wisdom, the divine wisdom? May “Hagia Sophia” encompass both the Christian and Islam believers in its bosom and may the humanity is able to vibrate and participate with this divine wisdom as dear children holding all Christian and Islam believers together.