Turkish President Erdogan converts another historic church into mosque
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the reconversion of a historic Byzantine church into a mosque. The presidential decree on the issue was published in Turkey’s Official Gazette on August 21. This development has come after almost a month of a similar controversial restoration of Hagia Sophia as a mosque.
As per the Friday order, Istanbul’s Church of St. Saviour in Chora,(popularly known as Kariye in Turkish) would soon open up for Muslim prayers. The church was reported built as a monastery in the 6th century. It was turned into a church during the Byzantine times, following which it served as a mosque during the Ottoman era in the 16th century. Later in 1945 after World War II, it was transformed into Kariye Museum. Last year, Turkey’s top administrative court, Council of State, approved the conversion of the 1,000-year-old building into a mosque after its ownership was transferred from the Education Ministry to the Directorate of Religious Affairs.
Evidently, the move has invited massive criticism from church leaders and countries across the world. Greek Foreign Ministry has released a statement, condemning Erdogan’s move. In the statement, the Greek ministry has said that the Turkish authorities “are once again brutally insulting the character” of another UN-listed world heritage site, urging them to “return to the 21st century and the mutual respect, dialogue, and understanding between civilizations.” Meanwhile, no date yet has been announced for offering Muslim prayers in the building.
In July, Turkish President Erdogan participated in the first Muslim inside Hagia Sophia in 86 years along with hundreds of other worshippers. Hagia Sophia, which was a church for centuries and then a mosque for some more centuries is a UNESCO World Heritage site, now renamed as “The Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque”.
These decisions are reportedly being taken in line with the Erdogan’s aspirations to boost Islam’s presence in Turkey such that the country can lead the Islamic world. Turkey’s Hagia Sophia and Chora Church are celebrated architectural masterpieces as part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Thousands of tourists visit the Kariye Museum every year in Istanbul.