Christians Cry Foul as Turkey Turns Historic Church into a Mosque

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The Turkish government has converted a former Byzantine church into a mosque on Friday the 21st of August 2020.

This happened a month after it drew praise from the faithful and international opposition for similarly turning Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia into a Muslim house of prayer.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision, published in the country’s Official Gazette, stated that Instanbul’s Church of St. Saviour in Chora, known as Kariye in Turkish, was handed to Turkey’s religious authority, which would become a place for Muslim prayers.

Just as the Hagia Sophia, which was a church for centuries and then a mosque for more centuries, the historic Chora church had operated as a museum for decades before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered it to be restored as a mosque.

The church, which is located near the ancient city wall, is famous for its detailed mosaics and paintings.

It has been there from the fourth century, although the imposing building took on its current form in the 11th and 12th centuries.

The structure was a mosque during the Ottoman rule before being changed into a museum in 1945.

Last year, a court decided to cancel the building’s status as a museum, which led the way for Friday’s decision.

Hagia Sophia’s decision to transform the Chora church museum back into a mosque is seen as fitting to combine the conservative and religious support base of Erdogan’s ruling party at a time when his popularity is falling surrounded by an economic downturn.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry approved of the decision, stating that Turkish authorities are insulting the character of another United Nation listed world heritage site.

Going on to state that this is provoking all believers, and that they urge Turkey to return to the 21st century, and the mutual respect, dialogue, and understanding between civilisations.

Protestant believers agree.

Soner Tufan, head of Turkey’s estimated 7,000 member Protestant community stated that the Hagia Sophia is another attack on Christians. This was stated in anticipation of the court’s decision, also stating that the court does not look after Christians or give them their rights.

A complaint of Protestants in Turkey has been a sudden move in denials for residency permit renewals of emigrant Christian workers, and the deportation of them.

Elpidophoros, the Greek Orthodox archbishop of America, stated on Twitter that after the tragic transgression with Hagia Sophia, now the Monastery of Chora, this exquisite offering of Byzantine culture to the world.

He also stated that the pleas and exhortations of the international community are ignored.

While churches that were turned into museums are being converted into mosques, other historic Christian buildings are left in disrepair.

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