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World Council of Churches wants Hagia Sophia decision reversed

The issue has highlighted the clash between those who want Turkey to remain secular, and President Erdogan’s conservative religious base.

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Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, July 12 : The World Council of Churches has called on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse his decision to turn the celebrated Hagia Sophia museum back into a mosque.

In a letter to Erdogan, the Council, which counts 350 churches as members, said the move would sow division, the BBC reported.

The Unesco World Heritage site in Istanbul has been a museum since 1934.

The president announced his decision on Friday following a court ruling which annulled its museum status.

The Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

It was converted to a museum on the orders of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern, secular Turkey.

Since then religious services have been banned at the site, but devout Muslims have long campaigned for worship to be allowed.

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches says it represents more than 500 million Christians.

The letter is from Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary, who says the Council feels “grief and dismay”.

“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.”

He writes that the decision “will inevitably create uncertainties, suspicions and mistrust, undermining all our efforts to bring people of different faiths together at the table of dialogue and co-operation”.

“In the interests of promoting mutual understanding, respect, dialogue and co-operation, and avoiding cultivating old animosities and divisions, we urgently appeal to you to reconsider and reverse your decision,” the letter read.

The case was decided by the Council of State, Turkey”s highest administrative body, following a petition from an NGO – the Association for the Protection of Historic Monuments and the Environment.

It argued that the building had been the private property of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed, responsible for turning the church into a mosque.

The issue has highlighted the clash between those who want Turkey to remain secular, and President Erdogan’s conservative religious base.

The case was decided by the Council of State, Turkey”s highest administrative body, following a petition from an NGO – the Association for the Protection of Historic Monuments and the Environment.

It argued that the building had been the private property of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed, responsible for turning the church into a mosque.

The issue has highlighted the clash between those who want Turkey to remain secular, and President Erdogan”s conservative religious base.

He defended his decision on Friday by stressing that the country had exercised its sovereign right in converting the building back to a mosque. The first Muslim prayers would be held on 24 July.

“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said.

Today Turkey had “435 churches and synagogues open for worship”, while “few buildings our ancestors built in Eastern Europe and Balkans stand today”.

World

Trump’s Covid relief offers too little to help US economy: Experts

According to his calculation, the orders could provide some US $400 billion in total, which is too little to change anything.

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Donald Trump

Washington, Aug 14 : US President Donald Trump’s recent coronavirus relief orders have little to offer for the macro US economy in a crisis, experts said.

One of the four executive orders will extend extra unemployment benefits through the end of the year at a level of US $400 per week, Xinhua news agency reported.

The other three actions Trump signed Saturday include a memorandum to defer certain payroll tax obligations, a memorandum to defer student loan payments and an executive order to reinstate the federal moratorium on evictions, which also expired at the end of July.

Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist, wrote in a free analysis that the Trump orders “fall well short of what is needed to avoid renewed job loss and rising unemployment.”

According to his calculation, the orders could provide some US $400 billion in total, which is too little to change anything.

In a talk with Bloomberg, Zandi believes failure to pass a sufficient fiscal stimulus package will lead to the US falling back into economic recession.

JPMorgan Chase economist Michael Feroli wrote: “If this is all we get for fiscal policy for the rest of the year it would represent a significant downside risk to our growth outlook.”

Feroli believes that Trump’s move of bypassing Congress “could reduce the urgency for Congress and the White House to get a more comprehensive deal done”.

The American economy shrank at an annual pace of 32.9 per cent in the second quarter, by far the worst quarter on record.

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Middle East

Israel-UAE deal will not stop Netanyahu’s annexation plans: Analyst

“The problem is with the system of racism and apartheid that Israel excises against the Palestinian people.”

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Mustafa Barghouti,

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general and co-founder of the Ramallah-based Palestinian National Initiative, said the deal between Israel and the UAE will not stop Netanyahu’s annexation plans.

“The Israelis and Emirates had relations already, there was never a struggle between them so I don’t know why they need to call it a peace agreement,” Barghouti told Al Jazeera.

“The reality is that the problem is with the Palestinian people, with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land, the problem is with the Israeli plan of annexation of Palestinian land which Netanyahu has confirmed one more time today that he is proceeding with.”

“The problem is with the system of racism and apartheid that Israel excises against the Palestinian people.”

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Middle East

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas ‘rejects and denounces’ UAE-Israel deal

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Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Israel’s accord with the United Arab Emirates in a statement issued by his spokesman.

“The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the UAE, Israeli and US trilateral, surprising, announcement,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to Abbas.

Abu Rudeineh, reading from a statement outside Abbas’ headquarters in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said the deal was a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause.”

The statement urged the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to assemble to “reject” the deal, adding “neither the UAE nor any other party has the right to speak in the name of the Palestinian people.”

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