Two weeks ago, a bill was introduced in Turkish parliament to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque

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Source: http://hellenicleaders.com/HagiaSophia

A few days ago, deputy prime minister of Turkey Bulent Arinc stood next to Hagia Sophia and made a shocking declaration: he declared to his audience that “[w]e currently stand next to the Hagia Sophia Mosque […] we are looking at a sad Hagia Sophia, but hopefully we will see it smiling again soon.”

The Greek government has released a response:

“The repeated statements from Turkish officials regarding the conversion of Byzantine Christian churches into mosques are an insult to the religious sensibilities of millions of Christians and are actions that are anachronistic and incomprehensible from a state that declares it wants to participate as a full member in the European Union, a fundamental principle of which is respect for religious freedom. Byzantine Christian churches are an intrinsic element of world cultural and religious heritage, and they should receive the necessary respect and protection.”

Of course, the Turkish government couldn’t care less about the reaction of Greeks or Christians. The movement within Turkey to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque has gained steam as of late, and earlier this year, a petition was submitted to a parliamentary commission to accomplish the conversion.

Less than two weeks ago, a bill was introduced in Turkish parliament to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque, laughably claiming that its conversion into the museum it is today was somehow “illegal.” This is what the bill’s sponsor had to say about the matter:

“This bill has been prepared aiming to open the Hagia Sophia – which is the symbol of the Conquest of Istanbul and which has been resounding with the sounds of the call to prayer for 481 years – as a mosque for prayers.”

And there you have it. For millions around the world, Hagia Sophia symbolizes the history of Christianity, the glorious grandeur of Byzantine architecture, or the stunning ability of man to sculpt faith into a creation that stirs the hearts of onlookers to this very day.

For the bill’s sponsor and many others in Turkey? Hagia Sophia is simply “the symbol of the Conquest of Istanbul,” a passive representation of the height of Ottoman power. For them, Hagia Sophia has no intrinsic value but is instead a means to an end. Its conversation into a mosque would be yet another “conquest,” a victorious notch in the proverbial belt of an re-ascendent Ottomanism.

The “Blue Mosque” – located just a over a kilometer away from Hagia Sophia.

After all, it’s not like the city needs another mosque. Just one kilometer away from Hagia Sophia is Turkey’s famous Blue Mosque, completed in 1616 and still used to this day as a mosque for prayers.

Still, the relentless pursuit of converting historical Christian sites to mosques marches on in Turkey. One other Hagia Sophia, a smaller church-turned-museum in Trabzon, Turkey, has already been turned into a mosque this year. A court ruled that its conversion into a museum was “illegal.” It’s a case that sets a dangerous precedent.

We need your help to stand up for Hagia Sophia. Add your voice to the international petition in opposition to converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque:

http://hellenicleaders.com/HagiaSophia

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Ange Postecoglou keen to build a bubble of belief after first up win

Source: TheRoar

While the quality of the opponents in Costa Rica wasn’t particularly high, the Socceroos rounded off what has been a positive first week under Ange Postecoglou with a performance that gives them a building base and a bit of belief.

While the manager was upbeat in his praise post-match, no doubt keen to build a positive air around a squad that doesn’t have a lot of time before Brazil, Ange Postecoglou also recognised there is still plenty to do.
But he says he is happy for the nation to get carried away with the effort at the SFS last night.

Little doubt he wants to build belief among the Socceroos and in the Socceroos.

He says we shouldn’t fear anyone.

It’s an interesting strategy, and a first up win and positive showing certainly provides at least some fuel for a nation to get behind the team.

While it wasn’t World Cup class by any means, certainly there looked a foundation that at least gives us a chance of being more competitive than we have been.

While Costa Rica came here with an experimental squad and what looked a negative back five, you can only control what’s in front of you, and the Roos deserve credit for doing that.

This was a performance a world away from some of the recent regressive showings that brought an end to the Holger Osieck years.

Here was a team playing on the front foot, stepping up to press the opponents across the pitch.

Defensive pressure was the foundation of this first-up effort, suffocating the Ticos, not allowing them to gain any control of the match, let alone a strike.

‘Control of the opposition’ and ‘control across all the thirds’ were buzz phrases under Guus Hiddink and while there might have been a little more control of the final third at times, certainly there were plenty of good signs across the pitch.

Primarily, it was the squeezing of the opponents as a unit that gave the Roos the space to start stringing their passes.

Coming from a team that looked afraid to play under Osieck, there were some good signs that this team will have a crack and try to play under Postecoglou.

Certainly he is encouraging them to, and you could see a few smiles return, not that the skipper Lucas Neill was smiling when heckled by some of the fans in the eastern terrace.

While it will take Postecoglou time to build the confidence in possession, one of the most pleasing aspects, as he said post-match, was that even if there was an error in distribution and a lost ball, the team would work hard, and collectively, to win it back quickly.

Setting the pressing tempo were the two midfield anchors, the imposing Mile Jedinak and and composed Mark Milligan, who protected their back five with distinction.

This was Jedinak’s best game in green and gold for what seems an eternity and he reminded many, including this correspondent, he’s not giving up his spot under Postecoglou without a fight.

After a very nervy start on the ball, he started to stroke it around with more confidence.

Milligan continued his recent high standards, and is still, to my mind, the man for the armband.

There were encouraging signs also from right fullback Ivan Franjic, striker Mat Leckie, right sided attacker Robbie Kruse and substitute number 10 Tom Rogic.

Overall, there was a real hunger and enthusiasm about this camp, and the challenge for Postecoglou is to bottle that desire and take it to Brazil and beyond.

There is little room for complacency, and Postecoglou would do well to maintain a healthy and objective distance from his players, keeping everyone on their toes, assessing them and others in detail.

For example, the nervy start among the new look back five might have been punished by a team more in tune with their strategy.

While we shouldn’t get too carried away with last night, as greater challenges lie ahead, you can understand Postecoglou’s want to create a snowball.

Unlike Osieck’s empty rhetoric, there was enough to suggest Postecoglou has turned the corner and started trending the Roos in the right direction.

Greece vs Romania 1-1, 19/11/13

Greece sealed their place at World Cup 2014 with a 4-2 aggregate victory over Romania after drawing 1-1 on Tuesday.

After arriving in Bucharest with a 3-1 lead from the first leg, Greece were able to stretch their advantage as Konstantinos Mitroglou netted in the 23rd minute on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old timed his run perfectly to reach a Vasilis Torosidis pass and finish low into the bottom corner from 15 yards for his third goal in the tie and fifth goal in qualifying overall.

Alexandros Tziolis’ unfortunate own goal 10 minutes into the second half gave the hosts hope, but Fernando Santos’ side were able to hold on and secure their passage to Brazil 2014.

The draw extends Greece’s unbeaten run to eight matches and sees them qualify for consecutive World Cup finals for the first time.

Victor Piturca made four changes to his side in an attempt to claw back the two-goal deficit from the first leg, with captain Vlad Chiriches one of those brought in despite suffering with a broken nose.

Greece made just one alteration from the clash in Athens, and that was an enforced one as Giorgos Karagounis replaced the suspended Kostas Katsouranis.

Romania started at a high tempo to try and get themselves an early goal but their finishing lacked accuracy.

Gabriel Torje went closest with a long-range effort in the sixth minute, as the Espanyol midfielder skipped in from the right before sending his left-foot shot wide.

Ciprian Tatarusanu – starting in the hosts’ goal in place of Bogdan Lobont – was called into action to deny Jose Holebas in the 17th minute but he could nothing about Mitroglou’s opener five minutes later.

The Olympiacos forward broke the offside trap to collect a pass from Torosidis, and calmly fired home to extend Greece’s aggregate lead.

After wasting chances towards the end of the first half, Romania were soon back into the tie after the break, although it took a huge slice of luck to give them a glimmer of hope.

Some neat build-up play ended with Ovidiu Hoban rolling a ball inside from the edge of the penalty area, and Torosidis’ clearance struck Tziolis and looped into the top corner.

Alexandru Maxim threatened to narrow the deficit even further in the closing 20 minutes, but resilient defending from Greece ensured their progression.