Turkey offended by Pompeo’s plan to discuss religious issues

Epigraph:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Aerial view of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in brown color with 4 minarets

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey took offense at a U.S. statement that said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would promote religious freedom during an upcoming visit to Istanbul and called Wednesday on Washington to focus on racism and hate crimes in the United States instead.

The State Department said in a statement Tuesday that Pompeo would travel to Istanbul to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Greek Orthodox Christians. The top U.S. diplomat plans to discuss religious issues in Turkey and to promote “our strong stance on religious freedom around the world.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rebuked the statement “as extremely inappropriate,” insisting that the country protects the rights of citizens of various faiths to freely practice their religions.

“It would be more advisable for the United States to look in the mirror first and to show the necessary sensitivity to human rights violations such as racism, Islamophobia and hate crimes in its own country,” the Turkish ministry said in a statement.

“Our reaction on this matter was conveyed to the U.S. side, and it was suggested that (Washington) focus on increasing cooperation between our countries on regional and global issues,” the Foreign Ministry said.

In July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan converted Istanbul’s landmark Haghia Sophia into a mosque, ignoring calls for the former cathedral to be kept as a museum in recognition of the city’s multicultural past. The move led to accusations that the Turkish leader was trying to erase Orthodox Christians’ cultural heritage.

The structure, a United Nations world heritage site, served as one of Christendom’s most important cathedrals before being turned into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and then into a museum 86 years ago.

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