When Prince Vladimir of Kyiv traversed Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Minor during the 10th century in search for a religion for his people, he made the following famous proclamation after experiencing the Divine Liturgy at the magnificent Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople: “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it.” Construction of the Byzantine cathedral was completed in the sixth century; today Hagia Sophia (Ἁγία Σοφία or Holy Wisdom) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite its official status as a museum, with its doors open for all people of the world to walk through and marvel, Turkey—notwithstanding its international obligations—is unilaterally proceeding with converting this gift to and for humanity into a mosque. It is little exaggeration to write that the entire international community, including, it should be noted, many leaders and scholars of Islam, have condemned this move, not only as morally wrong, but also counter to the secular society established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Absent, however, in this important international conversation about human rights and fostering an inclusive society, is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose silence on Hagia Sophia’s conversion is deafening.
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