"Evolution – a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions."
That’s the definition from the excellent dictionary.com for ‘evolution’ in a social sense. Compare and contrast with the following passage from the Associated Press’ (AP) article on the Pope’s visit to Constantinople-that-was, which begins tomorrow:
"No moment of Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip may be more closely watched as his walk through the majestic Haghia Sophia, a domed complex whose history spans Istanbul’s stormy evolution from Christianity to Islam."
Firstly, evolution is, by definition, not stormy. Secondly, evolution must take its course naturally, can not be forced or be a thing that is the result of cruel and inhuman practices. Which is what moslem Turky is. Ah, you think I’m being harsh? Unfair and bigoted, perhaps? Well, see for yourself. From Wikipedia’s vox populi truth machine we have this account:
" [Mehmet ordered] the conversion of the city’s central cathedral, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque, and having a Muslim scholar decree from its pulpit that there is no god but Allah. Following the Turkish conquest all Christians not killed or sold into slavery were relegated to the status of dhimmis….
…Steven Runciman recounts that during the siege of Constantinople Mehmed II promised his men "the women and boys of the city." Upon its conquest, he ordered the 14-year-old son of the Grand Duke Loukas Notaras be brought to him for his personal pleasure. When the father refused to deliver his son to such a fate he had them both decapitated on the spot."
But of course, the Wiki vox populi
has that weakness that it can be written and re-written by anyone, especially when it’s an internet resource. So let’s have a look at what that noted (and sorely missed) reporter and writer Oriana Fallaci had to say in her potted history of the fall of Constantinople in her excellent The Force of Reason
. (You’re really not going to like this)
Do you know the chronicle that about the fall of Constantinople the scribe Phrantzes has left us to refresh the memory of the oblivious or rather of the hypocrites?
Perhaps not. Especially in Europe, a Europe that weeps only for the Muslims, never for the Christians or the Jews or the Buddhists or the Hindus, it would not be Politically Correct to know the details of the fall of Constantinople. Its inhabitants who at daybreak, while Mehmet II is shelling Theodosius’ walls, take refuge in the cathedral of St. Sophia and here start to sing psalms. To invoke divine mercy. The patriarch who by candlelight celebrates his last Mass and in order to lessen the panic thunders: ‘Fear not my brothers and sisters! Tomorrow you’ll be in the Kingdom of Heaven and your names will survive till the end of time!’. The children who cry in terror, their mothers who give them heart repeating ‘Hush, baby, hush! We die for our faith in Jesus Christ! We die for our Emperor Constantine XI, for our homeland!’.
The Ottoman troops who beating their drums step over the breaches in the fallen walls, overwhelm the Genovese and Venetian and Spanish defenders, hack them on to death with scimitars, then burst into the cathedral and behead even newborn babies. They amuse themselves by snuffing out the candles with their little severed heads… It lasted from the dawn to the afternoon, that massacre. It abated only when the Grand Vizier mounted the pulpit of St. Sophia and said to the slaughterers: ‘Rest. Now this temple belongs to Allah’.
Meanwhile the city burns, the soldiery crucify and hang and impale, the Janissaries rape and butcher the nuns (four thousand in a few hours) or put the survivors in chains to sell them at the market of Ankara. And the servants prepare the Victory Feast. The feast during which (in defiance of the Prophet) Mehmet II got drunk on the wines of Cyprus and, having a soft spot for young boys, send for the firstborn of the Greek Orthodox Grand Duke Notara. A fourteen year-old adolescent known for his beauty.
In front of everyone he raped him, and after the rape he sent for his family. His parents, his grandparents, his uncles, his aunts and cousings. In front of him he beheaded them. One by one. He also had all the altars destroyed, all the bells melted down, all the churches turned into mosques or bazaars. Oh, yes. That’s how Constantinople became Istanbul. But Doudou of the UN and the teachers in our schools don’t want to hear about it."
And it is into the country which thus ‘evolved’ from Christianity into Islam (doesn’t evolution also have connotations of improvement? Someone remind me), into this ‘civilised’ culture which makes it a crime to insult ‘Turkishness’, this haven which wants, if you please, to become part of the EU, which the Holy Father must step oh-so-carefully. The AP article goes on to say that:
"Any gesture perceived as worship — even as simple as making sign of the cross — could be viewed as a serious affront by his hosts and undermine the Vatican’s attempts to rebuild goodwill with Turkey as a bridge to other Muslims nations….
An open act of piety by the pontiff would likely enrage powerful Turkish nationalists, who hold sway over the political and military establishment, as a perceived signal of Christian claims to the site and a challenge to Turkish sovereignty."
However, the Cathedral of St. Sophia, that sanctuary-that-was-breached, will be on the Pope’s tour itenerary. "as a "sign of respect" toward Muslims" according to Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi. Still, though, given that Islam is the ‘religion of peace’, that ‘Islam means peace’ and that moslems (and the Turks especially, ask the Greek Cypriots) are so very peaceful and civilised, there’s no chance at all that signs of respect shown by the Christian world to the moslem world won’t be reciprocated. I mean, just look at how well that’s worked historically…
Those of us inclined to pray and worry about these things could do worse than ask for blessings upon the Pope and all the faithful in danger in these very interesting times. From from London, to Anatolia, to Malaysia, the world over.