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Hagia Sophia and the Turkish Genocide of Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian Christians

Persecution of Christians in Turkey: the authors are correct in saying that “denying history, or simply re-writing it, seems to be a major goal of Turkey’s Islamist regime. Otherwise, they’d be forced to acknowledge that centuries before the coming of Islam, and a millennium before the arrival of the Ottomans, Armenians embraced Christianity and lived in what is now Turkey. That, in turn, would the question, ‘What happened to them?’ And that’s the question Turkey wants to avoid at all costs.” They are incorrect in leaving out the fact that there were Greek Christians in what is now Turkey for an even longer period, and that they, too, were victims of this genocide.

Turkey seems intent on erasing its Christian past. Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül even said that converting Hagia Sophia to a mosque would “genuinely contribute to its real value once it was restored to its origin.” Yet its origin was not as a mosque, but as a cathedral, the grandest cathedral in the Christian world for nearly a thousand years.

The genocide of Christians in Turkey in the early twentieth century nearly erased the Christians there. Now, with actions such as converting Hagia Sophia to a mosque, the Turkish government is endeavoring to erase all traces of Christianity in the country.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Turkey, see here.

“Hagia Sophia and the Armenian Genocide,” by John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera, Breakpoint, July 24, 2020:

Despite protests from around the world, Turkey has decided to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. One supporter of Prime Minister Erdogan told Al Jazeera he’d been waiting fifty years for the holy site’s “original identity as a mosque” to be “restored.”

In truth, the original identity of the Hagia Sophia was as the Christian cathedral of Constantinople.

Now why should a building halfway around the world matter to us today? Well, that’s because, unfortunately, the Turkish government has a long track record of revising history. For example, between 1915 and 1923, in what’s known as the Armenian Genocide, an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians were killed and expelled from the Ottoman Empire, what is now Turkey.

What the Ottomans did to their Christian subjects served as a model for the Holocaust. As Adolf Hitler told military commanders just prior to the invasion of Poland, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

The war against the truth is also taking place in Lebanon, home to many Armenian Christian exiles. Last month, a television host, Neshan Der Haroutiounian, received an anti-Armenian message while broadcasting live. When Haroutiounian responded by criticizing what he called the “insidious” history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish President Erdogan, anti-Armenian rhetoric and violence there escalated. One viral video not only contained threats against the television host but threatened a massacre in Beirut’s primary Armenian neighborhood.

Then, according to reports, “Turkish authorities . . . requested that legal proceedings [be brought] against [the host]” to “guarantee the respect of the Turkish President in all Lebanese media.”

How has the Lebanese government responded? Der Haroutiounian has been placed on trial for “insulting the Turkish president and the Turkish people.” In Lebanon!

According to International Christian Concern, what’s happening in Lebanon is part of a larger pattern: “… [Turkey] will not tolerate references to [its] own genocidal history, [but instead]… perpetuates a policy which not only violates the other country’s national sovereignty, but also worsens religious freedom within that locale.” 

International Christian Concern cited Turkey’s intervention in Libya’s civil war as an example, an intervention that “placed Christians in the crosshairs.” And, just last year, Turkey unleashed brutal military attacks against Christians in the midst of the chaos in Syria.

Denying history, or simply re-writing it, seems to be a major goal of Turkey’s Islamist regime. Otherwise, they’d be forced to acknowledge that centuries before the coming of Islam, and a millennium before the arrival of the Ottomans, Armenians embraced Christianity and lived in what is now Turkey.

That, in turn, would the question, “What happened to them?” And that’s the question Turkey wants to avoid at all costs.

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