Turkey: Islamic Prayers Held at Hagia Sophia on Anniversary of Ottoman Conquest

June 2, 2020

Persecution of Christians in Turkey: the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, notes this development with sorrow and dismay.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is known throughout the world as the Great Church of Christ. Built in the sixth century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was for nearly a thousand years the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the center of the Orthodox Faith, and the world’s most magnificent cathedral. Following the Muslim conquest of Constantino ple in 1453, it was converted to a mosque by Sultan Mehmet II, and became a museum in 1935. See this important article for more background.

Converting the Hagia Sophia to a mosque once again would further undermine the position of the Christians of Turkey, making their situation all the more precarious. We ask instead that the government of Turkey affirm its commitment to religious freedom and discard all plans to change the status of the Hagia Sophia. And once again we urgently request that the United Nations and the U.S. State Department and Commission on Religious Freedom act to prevent this, given the Hagia Sophia’s importance for Christians and the deleterious effect this change would have upon Turkey’s embattled Christian minority.

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

“Islamic Prayers Held at Hagia Sophia,” International Christian Concern, June 1, 2020:

06/01/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – This past Friday, Turkey celebrated the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. President Erdoğan held a festival at the Hagia Sophia with video displays and fireworks commemorating the victory, as well as Islamic prayers and a reading of the 48th chapter of the Qur’an inside the historic cathedral….

Advocacy groups fear that the celebrations are just a precursor to Erdoğan transforming the Christian Orthodox cathedral into a mosque.

Holding prayers and Qur’an readings inside the Hagia Sophia violates Turkey’s secularist state policies, threatening equal religious freedom within the nation. The Hagia Sophia was transformed from a church into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest, and later into a museum with the creation of the Turkish state. It is supposed to be religiously neutral under the current system. However, Erdoğan continues his push for what was once the center of Christian Orthodoxy to be converted into a mosque, further alienating the country’s small Christian community and ignoring the state’s constitutional secularism.