Greece on Thursday criticized an Islamic religious ceremony held at Hagia Sophia in İstanbul on Wednesday night that was broadcast on television and attended by government officials.
“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 mobilized and to react,” said an online statement issued by the Greek Foreign Ministry on Thursday.
“This is a clearly unacceptable challenge to the religious sentiments of Christians everywhere and to all those who honor humanity’s cultural heritage, and it is taking place at a time when the interfaith dialogue should be promoted rather than undermined.”
The ministry also called 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.”
On May 13 a large group of people from the pro-government Anatolia Youth Association (AGD) and National Youth Organization (MGV) gathered in front of Hagia Sophia for morning prayer and demanded that the museum be turned into a mosque again.
On May 20 the Sözcü daily claimed the Hagia Sophia museum would be converted into a mosque and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and officials from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) would perform Friday prayers there.
Built in 537 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, whose rule stretched from Spain to the Middle East, Hagia Sophia — meaning “Divine Wisdom” in Greek — was unrivaled in the Christian world until Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered the city in 1453 and turned it into a mosque. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, decreed it a museum in 1934.