CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 06:30 am
As Hagia Sophia opened for Muslim prayers Friday for the first time in 86 years, a leading Asian cardinal said that the decision to turn the building back into a mosque will reopen wounds and intensify divisions.
In a statement sent via email July 24, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said that he was grieved by Turkey’s decision to change the status of the sixth-century Byzantine cathedral.
“How does turning what was once the world’s largest cathedral into a mosque do anything except sow tensions, divide people and inflict pain?” the Burmese cardinal asked.
“How does placing Hagia Sophia into the hands of people who have no sense of its history and heritage and who will destroy its Christian identity help bring people together? How does seizing Hagia Sophia uphold Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?”
“It doesn’t. It merely reopens wounds and exacerbates divides at a time when we should be healing humanity.”
The archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city, said that he had spoken “consistently and passionately” in defense of religious freedom both in his homeland and elsewhere in Asia.
“Indeed often I have spoken in defense of the persecuted Muslim peoples in Myanmar, and I will go on doing so without hesitation and unequivocally,” he said.
“For true freedom of religion requires respect for others’ freedom to practice, as well as the exercise and defense of one’s own liberty.”