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09/09/2020 Syria (International Christian Concern) – The groundbreaking ceremony for building a replica Hagia Sophia cathedral in Syria’s western Hama was completed in the presence of Syrian and Russian officials. An inscription on the cornerstone notes the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian military forces. It also takes aim at Turkey for choosing to convert the original Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque in July 2020.

Religious freedom accusations have become a type of weapon within the theater of Middle East conflicts. Both Syria and Russia have committed serious religious freedom violations. The conflict in Syria has indeed driven most Christians from the country. However, Syria and Turkey are also often on different sides of the civil war. Syria’s decision to build a replica of Hagia Sophia was nothing less than an attempt at provoking Turkey, something further seen through the chosen language of the cornerstone’s inscription.

If Christians are to have any future in Syria, then it must be one where they are not caught within the cross-hairs of conflict. Leaders have a responsibility of protecting their rights—including the right to have a place of worship—because it is the right thing to do. Not because of geopolitical expedience.

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