New York.- (GreekNewsOnline)
Few hours after Turkey’s top court ruling that declared illegal the 1934 decision by the country’s founder Kemal Ataturk to convert Hagia Sopia to museum, President Tayyip Erdogan declared the old glory of Byzantium a mosque on Friday with the first Muslim prayers to begin in two weeks.
“With this court ruling, and with the measures we took in line with the decision, Hagia Sophia became a mosque again, after 86 years, in the way Fatih the conqueror of Istanbul had wanted it to be,” Erdogan said in a national address, according to “Reuters”.
Erdogan said Turkey could now leave behind “the curse of Allah, profits and angels” that Fatih – the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II – said would be on anyone who converted it from a mosque.
“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be open to all, locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” said Erdogan, who earlier on Friday signed off on the Religious Affairs Directorate managing the site.
In a look-warm statement, State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus expressed the disappointment of the U.S. administration by the decision by the Government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia.
“This building is an important part of the “Historic Sites of Istanbul” UNESCO World Heritage Site, in recognition of its rich multicultural history.”
She continues saying that “We understand the Turkish Government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.”
STOP TRAVELLING TO TURKEY
Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Publisher/Editor of the “Greek News” said that it is time for our Community organizations to show the way on what measures should be taken against Turkey.[
“We ask the U.S. government to be tough on Turkey, when our organizations fund Turkey with millions of dollars, by visiting the country to express support to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Archons, the AHEPA and many Greek Orthodox Church organizations spend millions when their delegations visit Constantinople; Turkish Airlines is used by many Greek Americans in travelling to Greece. Are we expecting to be taken seriously?”
The publisher of “Greek News” proposed to immediate stop using Turkish Airlines in traveling to Greece and official visits to Turkey.
“If we want to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate, let’s talk to his All Holiness over video conference and send all the money we will save to the Fanar”.
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s effort to convert the Hagia Museum of Istanbul from a world-famous cultural site into a mosque:
“Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey is a place of deep spiritual significance for people of diverse backgrounds from around the world. For more than three quarters of a century, Turkish policy maintained this revered building as a museum, but President Erdogan today signed a decree that removes this museum status and converts it into a mosque.
“We strongly denounce President Erdogan’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque. At points in its history, Hagia Sophia served as a place of worship for Muslims and Christians, and for decades has been an extraordinary and welcoming center to people of all faiths. Erdogan’s move today is a deep affront to Christians around the world who look to Hagia Sophia as a shining light and deeply revered holy site. This conversion of its status is unnecessarily divisive at a time when we need more, not fewer, efforts to build bridges between Islam and Christianity. We strongly urge Erdogan to reverse this decision and sustain Hagia Sophia’s remarkable legacy and maintain its status as religiously neutral museum for peoples of all faiths and cultures to visit and celebrate our common world heritage.”
Representative Brad Schneider from Illinois said “Erdogan has today disgraced Turkey and its rich tradition of multiculturalism with this decision. Hagia Sophia cathedral is a revered holy site for Christians and Muslims alike, a treasure for the world—not a political pawn for divisive autocrats.”
Rhode Island CongressmanDavid Cicilline said “The world should be outraged by Erdogan’s decision to take #HagiaSophia – part of our common world heritage – and use it as a political tool that divides. There should be consequences for this violation of Hagia Sophia’s @UNESCO World Heritage Site status.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) decries the decision of Turkey’s Council of State (Danıştay), the country’s highest administrative court, to permit the conversion of the historic Hagia Sophia from its current status as a museum back into a mosque.
USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins said, “USCIRF condemns the unequivocal politicization of the Hagia Sophia, an architectural wonder that has for so long stood as a cherished testament to a complex history and rich diversity. Both Christians and Muslims alike ascribe great cultural and spiritual importance to the Hagia Sophia, whose universal value to humankind was reaffirmed with its inclusion in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1985.”
“It is regrettable that the Turkish government has proceeded with these steps, and with such disregard for the feelings of its own religious minority communities,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel added. “This decision comes at a time of increased fear and insecurity due to recent attacks on churches and other threats against religious and ethnic minorities and will only add to their sense of marginalization under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department place Turkey on its Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.
HOLY EPARCHIAL SYNOD
On Friday, Archbishop Elpidophoros convened a special session of the Holy Eparchial Synod, and with great sorrow and heartfelt anguish informed its members of the decision made by the Turkish government earlier today to convert Hagia Sophia of Constantinople into a mosque.
The communiqué issued by the Synod states that for Orthodox Christians around the globe, and also for the entire Christendom, Hagia Sophia, Constantinople, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are sacred spiritual centers and comprise a repository of our Christian Faith and tradition. Therefore, we call the Turkish government to respect the pan-Orthodox and pan-Christian consciousness, which today has been deeply wounded by this decision.
“We hope that this decision is not a manifestation of the deterioration in the stance of the Turkish government toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other religious minorities in Turkey. The hierarchy, the clergy, the monastics, and the faithful people of our Holy Archdiocese are deeply distressed, and pray fervently that peace, love, and well-being will prevail in that region and that the Turkish government annuls this decision.”
A statement was also issued by the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.
“We, the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, protest the decision of the civil courts in Turkey, as well as the clear direction of their government, to re-convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. As citizens of the United States of America, we implore our government to intervene for the reversal of this decision. Furthermore, we urge the Turkish government to return to the status quo whereby Hagia Sophia remains a museum, respecting both its origins and history.
By contrast, this unilateral action denies the universal vocation of this holy and sacred place. Hagia Sophia belongs to the whole of humanity as a World Heritage Site. Built in 537 AD during the reign of Emperor Justinian, it has been, for more than a millennium, a place of rich cultural and spiritual inspiration for all.
We are particularly concerned about the negative effects such a change will have on religious pluralism in Turkey, as well as on the relations among nations and between faith-based organizations. We call on the international community to invite the Turkish authorities to revise their decision, affording all people the opportunity to continue enjoying the full and rich history and beauty of this outstanding landmark. This unique Christian monument should remain open to all as a sign of co-existence and peace among all peoples of good will.”
Supreme President of the AHEPA George G. Horiates has issued the following statement:
“AHEPA condemns in strongest terms the action taken today by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who formally changed the status of Hagia Sophia to a mosque following a Turkish court’s decision that paved the way for him to do so.
It is unfortunate and a disappointment that Hagia Sophia has fallen victim to Turkey’s domestic politics. Today’s action also is an indictment of Turkey’s judicial system following Erdogan’s purges and the diminished role and influence of Turkey’s secular community in Turkish society under the tyranny of the Erdogan regime.
We appreciate the swift response from UNESCO. We call on the international community to hold Turkey accountable to the international bodies and conventions to which it is a signatory that stipulate Turkey’s responsibilities to preserve its rich cultural and religious heritage.
Hagia Sophia is the fifth instance of a former Byzantine church named “Hagia Sophia” to have been converted to a mosque during the past decade in Turkey, according to The Economist.
Hagia Sophia is a gift to all humankind. Its value is universal and it must be preserved as such.”
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) strongly condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s formal action that changes Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.
“Members of the U.S. Congress, in both chambers, and Administration officials, who profess to be persons of faith and advocates of religious freedom must immediately implement every policy at their disposal to demonstrate that this act is intolerable,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said.
Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of “outstanding universal value.” By this deplorable act, Turkey adds to its pattern of rejecting international norms, international institutions, laws, and treaties. Erdogan has exiled from the political and social life of Turkey any notion of religious tolerance.
Organizations such as AHI have repeatedly publicized the fact that Turkey is erasing its religious and cultural heritage by suppressing of the freedom of its religious minorities to worship as they see proper. In a February 11, 2020 statement, AHI condemned a Turkish administrative court’s ruling in which the court that denigrated Turkey’s Christian heritage. AHI presciently stated that, “The decision is an ominous precedent for any church that later served as a mosque, particularly Hagia Sophia.” Today, Erdogan has made this prediction a reality.
AHI has long maintained that Turkey violates U.S. principles and law on freedom of religion as they are set forth in Section 2804 of the FY98 Omnibus Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (PL 105-277). This law calls for the Turkish government to safeguard the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its personnel, and its property, and to reopen the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.
Furthermore, Turkey violates every tenet of the International Religious Freedom Act (IFRA). The IRFA mandates that the President hold Turkey accountable for such violations. The President make take one or more of 15 enumerated actions against a country which so blatantly acts against religious freedom.
When the United States International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued its 2020 report on Turkey, AHI contended Turkey should have been designated as a “country of particular concern.” Today’s action by President Erdogan further justifies that designation for Turkey in the Commission’s report next year.
The United States’ and international community’s appeasement of Turkey must end. Otherwise, Turkey will continue with its provocative acts, such has today’s reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which are egregious and without fear of repercussion, the AHI statement concludes.