Greek Orthodox Archdiocese asks UN to stop Turkey’s ‘policies to erase the cultural heritage of Orthodox Christians’

September 30, 2020

The conversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque, followed closely by the conversion of the historic monastery of Chora also, has significantly worsened the situation of Turkey’s embattled Christian community. Both conversions demonstrated yet again the Turkish government’s contempt for the nation’s rich Christian heritage.

Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has stated: “This unwise decision casts a shadow over the commitment of the government of Turkey to religious tolerance and religious freedom. The Turkish government’s decision is 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.” Read more here.

For these reasons, this petition to the UN is urgently needed, and we pray and hope that it will be heeded.

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

“Orthodox church petitions UN over Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia,” Associated Press, September 29, 2020:

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The Greek Orthodox Church of the United States said Tuesday it is petitioning United Nations experts to coerce Turkey into protecting Orthodox Christianity’s cultural heritage following the Turkish government’s conversion of Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said it was pressing U.N. special rapporteurs in the areas of cultural rights, minority rights, freedom of religion and beliefs to hold Turkey accountable “for its deliberate policies to erase the cultural heritage of Orthodox Christians.”…

“By unilaterally changing the status, structure and name of these UNESCO sites, with particular significance to Orthodox Christians, Turkey is in violation of its obligations under international law to preserve cultural heritage and to respect the political, cultural and religious freedoms of Orthodox Christians in Turkey and abroad,” Archdiocese of America counsel Christina Hioureas told The Associated Press in an emailed statement.

The Greek Orthodox archdiocese “hopes that international pressure from the United Nations, its bodies – including UNESCO, and its member states will motivate Turkey to reverse its decision to convert (the world heritage sites) into mosques.”…

“The Hagia Sophia was built 15-hundred years ago to be the cathedral and first church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America said.

“Today, with a heavy heart, we behold the historic and indeed essential Greek Orthodox Christian cultural heritage of Turkey being misappropriated, with the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque,” he told the AP. ” To do so is to start down a path toward denial of history, a path that denies the future as well.”