- Israel upgrades missile-killer Iron Dome (spacewar.com)
Reading this article yesterday (December 29, 2011) in the op-ed section of the NY Post opened a festering wound from my trip to Istanbul. My contact with that world was limited to the few friends, students and colleagues of that faith. I have tried to understand that religion by reading the Koran in its entirety and by discussing what I read. I have compared fanatics of all religions and I have seen no difference in their intolerance to others. What I had not experienced was what I was not able to appreciate in Istanbul. I enjoy visiting sites of worship, not for their prayer services, but to see the architecture and their believers. I had just visited the Sultanahmet Mosque (better known as the “Blue Mosque”) and I was ignorant of its history, but I was awed by its beauty.
In the 17th century, Sultan Ahmet I wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would be even better than the Hagia Sophia, and the mosque named for him is the result. The two great architectural achievements now stand next to each other in Istanbul’s main square, and it is up to visitors to decide which is more impressive.
It was easy seeing which one was more impressive. One had been allowed to decay while the other one was still flourishing. The entrance fee to the mosque was free while the “church” now operating as a museum was charging an exorbitant fee to enter it. I normally do not pay to enter houses of worship but I made an exception since this would probably be my last trip to this country.
While I toured this museum, my anger at how this site had been desecrated was evident in the lack of enthusiasm in type of photographs I was taking. My brother-in-law was surprised at my reaction. I’m not known for being the religious one in the family and my displeasure at the lack of respect for this edifice by the government of Turkey was even surprising to me.
The following day we went in search of a comparatively humble building in Fener, Istanbul, the Patriarchal Cathedral Church of St. George (Aya Yorgi) which houses the worldwide headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church.
There were no signs leading tourists to its location. This did not surprise me. I had seen a report on 60 Minutes about the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who is recognized as the “first among equals” of all Orthodox spiritual leaders. St. George had been part of a monastery before it welcomed the Orthodox Patriarchate. Over the centuries, it has been periodically damaged, the last time during the fire in 1941.
It is no longer a monastery and its head has to be born in Turkey. This church is an endangered site that is protected under the guise of Turkish authorities.
Before those visits I was surprised to see a church surrounded by 10 ft. walls. I didn’t think much of this at that time but I did find it vexing that the doors to this church were not open.
Normally while traveling, I meet a local who I befriend. This is a city where I didn’t find anyone besides the people at the hotel, restaurants and shops, especially the carpet salesmen, who have an interest in the name of customer service to be nice to its guests. I did meet a couple at a Starbucks Cafe who were enjoying their honeymoon in Istanbul. They’re from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina a place where I’ve been invited to visit and look forward one day to see them again. For now we’re friends on Facebook and keep in touch intermittently.
Would I recommend visiting Istanbul? Yes, but don’t waste your time trying to see anything that represent the Christian religions.
- One of the World’s Oldest Churches May Become a Mosque Again (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
It‘s instructive to remember that one of Christendom’s greatest cathedrals, Saint Sophia in Constantinople, was converted into the principal mosque of Istanbul in 1453; since 1935, it’s been a museum.
So where’s the international outrage? Where are the international agencies, which are so quick to protest the most tenuous slight to “human rights” in the West? Most of all, where’s the United Nations? Instead of sending its blue-helmeted troops around the world on futile peacekeeping missions, why doesn’t it throw a cordon sanitaire around sites of historical import. If that offends certain sensibilities, so what? The planet’s cultural patrimony belongs to everyone.
In an article in Forbes magazine dated February 8, 2010 the question of who’s next to suffer the worst losses if hit by an earthquake, lists Kathmandu, Nepal at the top with an estimate of 69,000 predicted deaths. Next on the risk scale is a city I just visited. Istanbul, Turkey. Seeing the city and walking through many
neighborhoods I can only agree with the probability that the death toll would be very high. My first impression of the city from the top of my hotel was of how poor the city below me looked. Roofs patched with aluminum, brick and mortar construction, a very densely populated city with buildings not exceeding six stories. Very few green spaces and most of the construction is on inclined planes. The death toll and degree of destruction has more to do with economics and engineering and not the geology, the study found. The study by GeoHazards International, a nonprofit research group based in Palo Alto, California continues the list with Delhi, India, a city I’ll be visiting in the near future, 38,000 predicted casualties, following that is Quito,Ecuador at 15,000, Manila, Philippines 13,000, Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Pakistan 12,500, San Salvador, El Salvador 11,500, Mexico City, Mexico 11,500, Izmir, Turkey 11,500, and tenth on the list Jakarta, Indonesia 11,000. Notice that Port-au-Prince, Haiti was not on this list prepared in 2001. In earthquake-prone regions of developing nations the building codes have improved as well as the preparation for disasters. Case in point is Chile where a massive earthquake struck the country causing less than 1000 deaths.
2005 Raids by police in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Greece and Turkey have resulted in the smashing of an international people smuggling ring that made million of euros trafficking people from the Middle East. Criminal groups in the United Kingdom, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan were involved in the ring that smuggled most of the migrants in boats.
Immigrants and their families, were forced to pay huge sums to get to Europe, or, in rare cases, North America.
The network, set up five years ago and run by an Iraqi Kurd, 30-year-old Ali Ako – nicknamed Arsalan – was allegedly managed from Rome.
The three-year operation netted 53 alleged smugglers. Paris prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin said 22 of them were in France, 18 in Italy, seven in Britain, three in Turkey and three in Greece.
It was “the biggest-ever simultaneous operation ever conducted on an international level” by agencies tackling people-smuggling, Mr Marin said.
2011 Still trying to stem the tide of illegal immigration, Italian authorities have recently broken up an Afghan-people-smuggling ring. Arrested in this case were 26 alleged smugglers in Italy. Further arrests in France and Germany are expected.