For one more time, Turkish authorities allowed Koran recitations and Ramadan prayers in Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, challenging the religious sentiment of Greek Orthodox Christians around the world.
The night prayers were broadcast live via the Turkish state broadcaster on June 21.
It is the third attempt of such an action organized by Turkish authorities. One more attempt to to turn the cradle of Orthodox Christianity into a mosque.
The prayers in Hagia Sophia occur two days after prime minister Binali Yildirim visited Athens and held talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
Yildirim later visited the Muslim community in Thrace telling them “you homeland is Turkey!”.
President Recept Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly expressed the wish to see Hagia Sophia turned into a mosque.
Greek Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the use of Hagia Sophia as a mosque.
“We condemn the Koran reading and holding of prayers in Hagia Sophia, which was attended by the head of Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs and broadcast by Turkey’s state television channel
Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO world heritage site. The attempt to convert it into a mosque – through reading of the Koran, holding of prayers, and a number of other actions – is an affront to the international community, which needs to be duly mobilised and to react.
This is a clearly unacceptable challenge to the religious sentiments of Christians everywhere and to all those who honour humanity’s cultural heritage, and it is taking place at a time when the interfaith dialogue should be promoted rather than undermined.
We call on Turkey to conduct itself as a modern and democratic country, to protect the ecumenical nature of Hagia Sophia, and to respect the age-old tradition of this global monument.”
Build in 537 AD, the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica (church) of Hagia Sophia served as the the seat of the Greek orthodox Patriarch until 1453, until the Fall of Constantinople.
It was built on orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.
After Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans, Sultan Mehmed ordered the main church of Orthodox Christianity to be converted into a mosque.
Founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned the historical monument into a museum in 1935.