Statement by Catholic charity, ACN International, on the Turkish government’s decision to allow the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Königstein-Montreal, Wednesday July 22, 2020 —The executive president of ACN International, Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, has issued the following statement concerning the Turkish government’s decision to allow Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to be used as a mosque.
“ACN views the proposed reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque with grave concern. Once again a religious issue is being exploited for the purpose of consolidating internal political power. Turkish President Erdoğan is apparently attempting to improve his personal popularity ratings by means of this measure, which has been widely criticized around the world, while at the same time diverting attention from the internal problems of his own country.
ACN fully comprehends the outrage this measure has provoked among Christians living in Turkey and throughout the Middle East. It can only intensify the constant weakening and disadvantaging of Christians and other religious minorities in this whole region. Despite the protestations to the contrary, and likewise despite the clear constitutional provisions, these minority groups among the population are often treated as second-class citizens and are increasingly undermined in their roots and their identity.”
The national director of ACN Canada, Marie-Claude Lalonde, also shares this concern. “We are living in a time when dialogue, respect for religious minorities is declining and the politicization of issues for partisan purposes is on the rise. I have the distinct impression that in general in the world we no longer understand the importance of respect for minorities, especially religious minorities. This is extremely worrying.”
She is calling on the Canadian Government to take strong action. “I sincerely hope that the Canadian Government will react forcefully with respect to these issues where religious minorities are facing the loss of their rights, as well as when the fragile balance of respect for minorities is in jeopardy.”
Scepticism with Regard to the International Reaction
In his statement, the International president expressed the international organization’s scepticism about the international response to this news. “ACN views the negative reaction among many nations and politicians in regard to this decision with some scepticism. While there has been a high degree of indignation about the repurposing of a religious building, the constant and in some cases state-sponsored acts of violence and discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities in many countries around the world have often met with little or no reaction.
ACN once again reiterates that the human right to full freedom of religion is inseparably linked to the unimpeachable dignity of the human person, therefore calls upon all national governments, and on international organizations such as the United Nations, to actively defend this right.
ACN condemns the increasing forms of extreme nationalism in many countries of the world, frequently motivated by particular religious ideologies. The result of these is that the members of religious minorities in these countries are often seen as aliens and enemies, even where their ancestors have lived in these lands long before those who now constitute the majority took possession of them.
ACN is calling on the Western nations in particular to draw lessons from the history of the Middle East in the 20th century and no longer remain silent over the destruction of the fundamental right to survival of minority groups, whether in Turkey, Iraq, India, China, Pakistan or elsewhere. Compared with this frequently bloody persecution, the proposed repurposing of this important religious building, the precise effects of which are still unknown, is a relatively minor matter.”
ACN is an international Catholic and Pontifical Charity supporting the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in distress. Today, the charity supports the Church through information, prayer and assistance projects in more than 140 countries where the Church is persecuted or does not have sufficient resources for its pastoral tasks.