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Hagia Sophia: “By appropriating the building, the defenders of political Islam seem to be trying to ‘erase Turkey’s Christian past'”

The Turkish government’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia to a mosque was not a courageous act, but a deeply ill-advised act of memoricide that ignores Turkey’s rich Christian history and further threatens the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the remaining Christians of that land. It was undertaken in defiance of the United States, Russia, France, Greece and many others.

Full statement of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle here.

“Turkey’s Hagia Sophia: ‘It’s Like If Saint Peter’s Had Been Turned Into a Mosque,'” by Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, July 12, 2020:

…Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an unprecedented decree converting Hagia Sophia once again into a mosque. Erdogan’s decree is a gesture of immense symbolism and historic meaning. “A threat against Hagia Sophia,” said the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, “is a threat for the whole of Christian civilization”….

“It’s like if Saint Peter’s had been turned into a mosque,” said Michael Talbot, a lecturer of history at the University of Greenwich. “It’s the fact that the seat of that church is no longer operating as a church and is in the hands of a rival religion”….

Last week, after Erdogan’s new decree, Islamists, shouting “Allahu Akbar”, converged on the former cathedral. The site will be reopen for Muslim prayers as a mosque on July 24. It is believed that during the Muslim prayers, Hagia Sophia’s world famous Byzantine mosaics will be covered.

Turkey did not, strictly speaking, need another mosque: in recent years Erdogan has built 17,000 mosques in the country. According to Ertugrul Özkök, writing in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet:

“A country where every day calls to prayer are recited from its 80,000 mosques, where prayers are performed five times a day, will now go and re-conquer one of the biggest symbols of the Orthodox world. Is that so?… Would you have enjoyed it so much if a mosque at the center of Europe were converted into a church?”

By appropriating the building, the defenders of political Islam seem to be trying to “erase Turkey’s Christian past“. A century ago, Christians made up 20% of Turkey’s population, while now the figure is just 0.2%. According to Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi, in their book, The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894–1924:

“Turkey’s Armenian, Greek and Assyrian (or Syriac) communities disappeared as a result of a staggered campaign of genocide beginning in 1894, perpetrated against them by their Muslim neighbors… By 1924, the Christian communities of Turkey and its adjacent territories had been destroyed”.

Turkey has more Biblical sites in it than any other region in the Middle East except Israel. Turks in occupied northern Cyprus since 1974 have already wiped out its Christian past.

Inside Turkey, Erdogan has similarly escalated his war on the Syriac Church by seizing 50 churches, monasteries, and religious properties.

He also evidently wanted to inflict humiliation on the West. The day before his announcement, he expelled Christian missionaries. By turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Erdogan has been able to embarrass Washington, mock Brussels and defy Moscow.

For Erdogan and the Islamists, Hagia Sophia is the prime symbol of Christianity’s subjugation to Islam. “Hagia Sophia is the symbol of conquest”, said Yunus Genç, who heads the Istanbul branch of the Anatolian Youth Association. “It belongs to us”.

Four popes have visited the former cathedral: St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis I. Yet, 24 hours after its conversion to a mosque, no major Christian leader or scholar has denounced Turkey’s religious assault on the Hagia Sophia….

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