The Hagia Sofia Should Not Be Cause For Division

Image by Waldo Miguez from Pixabay

It’s been a strange few weeks for me. In the lead up to the President of Turkey converting the Hagia Sofia into a Mosque I found myself studying the Crusades. I had been gifted a book by Christopher Tyerman, “The World Of The Crusades”. I followed this by purchasing “The First Crusade” by Thomas Asbridge and I’m now reading “Crusaders” by Dan Jones finishing most books three days apart.

In between these I’ve begun ordering the primary sources such as the Gesta Francorum written by an anonymous knight who was there at the first crusade. Another primary source I ordered was none other than the princess Anna Komnenes Alexiad. She was Princess and daughter to the emperor Alexius, and legendary for being considered the first female historian in all of history.

A strange thing occurred in which can only be brought about by God and his impeccable timing. As I indulged in reading my Crusaders book by Dan Jones, I had literally started reading the first sentence of the next chapter that mentioned the birth of Anna in the palace. Suddenly, my wife casually walks through the door with a book in her hand saying, “your book arrived”. I took it off her only to see it was the Alexiad, written by Anna Kommene in which she covers the first Crusade. I was verily spooked by such an encounter to say the least, but also warmed to the idea she was watching over me.

What exactly led to this Crusade of the crusades that I suddenly embarked upon? Well, it all began with my fathers day gift, Christopher Tyermans world of the Crusades. The book inspired me to teach my sons about the Crusades. Subsequently I bought what turned out to be an incredibly biased children’s book about the Crusades. It showed Islam in a favorable light and depicted the Crusaders as mere villains on a rampage.

I was so utterly destroyed by what I read, knowing it to be false from whatever learning I’d accumulated through Tyermans book, that I decided to read more by both modern and old historians on the issue. I also plan to get more primary sources to indulge even further. Reading all the books and consulting historian Stephen J.Roberts confirmed that almost everything in the children’s book was horse-feathers. I was left satisfied, but now the thirst to know more had begun.

Again, other than the unmerited grace of God through a series of gifts and encounters with badly written children’s stories, I’ve no idea what spurned me onto reading about the Crusades. What was it that plunged me into the world of Crusades where strange Godincidences were surrounding me? It was not like I had any love of Church history. In fact, I flunked that class long ago in high school and used it to fill my napping time and formulate paper airplanes. Then along comes the Hagia Sofia being declared a mosque and again these old divisions blew up around me on social media. I have resolved to accepting that God was preparing me not to become embroiled in the division between Christians and Muslims that would follow such a poorly engineered decision.

Armed with the limited knowledge I now had of the Crusades, I was able to dodge the bullet and swarm of hate that had released itself from the beehive of hell. Without a doubt the Turkish presidents act was a wound against Christians around the world most notably the Greeks. From my study of the Crusades, I’ve learned that although war should always be a last resort and unfortunately necessary, loving dialogue must precede it and be preferred above all else. The action of president Erdogan harbored no resemblance to such loving dialogue at all.

We should always exhaust all avenues in a modern world not to resort to medieval practices that are eager to spill blood before its time. When it comes to competition between religions, it is better to compete with one another in humility than it is with the arms of this world made at the hands of sinners. If one religion wants to prove itself as more authentic than the other, let them do so with words of love than the sting of gossip.

I know that my blog is a small one, and in the grand scheme of things what I have to say will sink in the sands of time to come. However, I do invite anyone reading this especially my fellow Christians and my Islamic brothers, that you should never do anything to damage one another’s buildings. You should not resort to the medieval practices of converting one another’s places of worship into your own.

In 2020 freedom of religion should be paramount in every country around the world. I urge you, therefore, to not allow the arrogant fanatical behaviour of president Erdogan to put a wedge between you both. You must rise above this political move for gain and understand that along with his prestige, he will have to answer to God for the behaviour.

You, on the other hand must not allow yourselves to be dragged down to hell with such people who do not have your benefit in mind. Do you want to be numbered among the dead politicians who sought to fill their own bellies and be renowned in the book of history as contributing to the division of future generations? No, nobody does. Our sins here on earth, although forgiven, can shape the next generation and that’s something I’ve benefited from engaging with history in a positive way. I invite you to imitate this poor sinner as I seek to imitate Christ.

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