Turkey has made good on its promise to have Koranic prayers read in the church of Hagia Sophia, one of Christianity’s greatest religious and architectural monuments.
The provocative move was denounced by UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General, Francesco Bandarin saying UNESCO’s position on the matter is clear, “Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO world heritage site’’.
On Wednesday evening a religious program marking Laylat al-Qadr, also known as the Night of Power was organised and attended by Turkish Director of Religious Affairs Dr Mehmet Görmez and broadcast by state television channel TRT.
The Greek government quickly reacted to the recitation of the Quran and the deliberate and blatant act of cultural appropriation calling it “manifestly unacceptable.”
“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’’ said the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Laylat al-Qadr is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew has long fought for liturgical services to be reinstated in Hagia Sophia but Turkey’s Erdogan has resisted pushing instead for the 1,500 year old Christian monument to be converted into a mosque.
This bold and provocative act has outraged many governments including the US, whose Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned back in 2014 a bill introduced in the Turkish parliament that would “change Saint Sophia from a museum, which it has been since 1935, to a mosque.
Source: Greek City Times