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Dear Turkish Friends!

Politics has converted Hagia Sophia back to a Mosque. It had the power to do so. It is not my concern – or my right – to judge this decision.

Some of you know me. I am a Catholic priest in Vienna. Twenty years ago I studied in Ankara. I have tried to learn the Turkish language to get to know Turkish people and Turkish culture better. I was impressed by Turkish hospitality.

What I am worried about are the words which are used for a house of prayer. A house of God should not be used as a symbol of conquest but only as a symbol of prayer and peace. We no longer live in an age as 500 years ago. In the meantime slavery has been abolished, women have been granted equal rights, child labour has been banned. The rights of every human being have been asserted.

We have also improved our knowledge of religion. We know that God is not powerful through us if we conquer something. Nor can we force anyone to believe in God. We cannot force anything on anyone. To find faith in God is a gift.

Hz. Mevlana Celaledin Rumi says: “If the Kaaba is not in your heart, do not go to Mekka. If the cross is not in your heart, you do not need a church.”

I know about the difficult history between Christians and Muslims. But I believe from my heart that God is testing us to see if we can live together. It is written in the Holy Qur’an: “Compete with each other for the Good!” (2/148). What matters, therefore, is the outcome of faith. Faith is not a word, but a deed, a way of life.

Therefore, how do we want to go into the future? Do we want to live together in peace, or will we only be happy when the other one is conquered?

Dear Turkish Brothers and Sisters,

This is what makes me sad: That the prayer of the Hagia Sophia is a symbol of conquest. That is the reason for the fear of the Christians. Do we need to fear each other?

In your Holy Qur’an every sura begins with the bismillahirrahmanirrahim, the call for mercy and compassion.

I therefore beg you: When you pray in the Hagia Sophia, pray for peace; pray that all of us can believe that Christians and Muslims can live together peacefully. That we all learn to speak a language of togetherness. That God may show us a common way. Only then can we understand God’s greatness. God is greater than our thoughts. Amen.

 

Pfarrer Martin Rupprecht, 23. Juli 2020

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