I spent last weekend in Istanbul. It’s a city I have wanted to see for a long time. I wandered around and took photos, I’m so happy behind a camera! I came away with such mixed feelings about it as a city and a culture. I couldn’t help thinking about how it was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman rule but was taken over by the Ottomans in 1453 and transformed into an Islamic city. It is now, ironically, a secular state.

I wrestled with the idea of the harem (2nd picture) where the sultan had his pick of women as his property, and the need for women to cover their heads (last photo) and the image of women in such a different culture. The feeling in the city, even today, is that women are second class citizens. I was pushed out of the way and often not treated with much respect purely because I’m female. I wrestle with where a woman’s place is in the world and in the church and am aware of the conflict which still exists. So as you can image it was a thought provoking experience. I did think that the headscarves I saw on many women were elegant but wondered, at the same time, what the world would be like if men had to cover up.

Some of the photos above show the architecture. The third image is the original church building of the Hagia Sophia which was subsequently converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, icons and sacrificial vessels were removed and many of the mosaics were plastered over. The minarets were added and from the inside it is unrecognisable. I couldn’t believe the changes through time and it was good to see that there was evidence the building which existed originally. It reminded me of the historical changes of temple mount in Jerusalem. Today it is under the control of Islam but we know from what the bible says that it will be reclaimed by the King of Kings.

I have thought a lot this week about how God reclaims things for his own….people, cities, buildings. There is a war going on and it is in the spiritual realm, a war for souls and war between light and dark and we live in a world where it sometimes feels that darkness has a stronger hold but the truth is he will come again in glory and he won the battle when he sent his son to die for us. What a gift!