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Hagia Sophia: UAE urges preservation of heritage

Wam, AFP/Abu Dhabi
Filed on July 13, 2020 | Last updated on July 13, 2020 at 06.45 am
Hagia Sophia, Unesco, Istanbul, UAE

The minister emphasized the importance of the statement issued by Unesco, which had stressed that Hagia Sophia was part of historic Istanbul.

The change in the status quo of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was effected without any regard to the civilisational value of this historical edifice, said UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, and Chairperson of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, Noura bint Mohamed Al Kaabi.

"It has remained a global landmark with significant cultural legacy. It also served as a bridge connecting different peoples and cementing their bonds," she said in a statement.

Stating that preserving human heritage strengthened the values of tolerance and coexistence, she said. "World heritage sites have become the platforms for knowledge exchange between diverse cultures and civilizations that evolved in history across time. Hagia Sophia is an important example of interaction and dialogue between Asia and Europe and should remain a witness to harmonious human history."

The minister emphasized the importance of the statement issued by Unesco, which had stressed that Hagia Sophia was part of historic Istanbul.  "It is designated as a heritage museum by Unesco. It is an architectural marvel and is a unique witness to the interaction between Asia and Europe across centuries. It is a symbol of dialogue," she explained.

The Unesco demanded in its statement that countries that are home to cultural heritage sites should not alter them in ways that harm their outstanding universal value.

Churches council decry move

The World Council of Churches, which represents 350 Christian churches, said on Saturday it wrote to Turkey's president expressing "grief and dismay" over his decision to turn the Hagia Sophia museum back into a mosque.

"Hagia Sophia has been a place of openness, encounter and inspiration for people from all nations and religions" since 1934 when it was turned from a mosque into a museum, the Geneva-based council's interim general secretary Ioan Sauca said in the letter.

On Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the museum would be reopened for Muslim worship as a mosque.

The council's statement on Saturday underscored that "by deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey's openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division".

The move would "inevitably create uncertainties, suspicions and mistrust, undermining all our efforts to bring people of different faiths together at the table of dialogue and cooperation", the statement said.


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