Turkey’s president has signed a decree to formally turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque – a move which threatens to upset Christians around the world.
By Sally Lockwood
Jul 10, 2020
The monument in Istanbul has been a disputed symbol between Christianity and Islam for centuries – it was built as a Greek Orthodox Cathedral in 537AD but was turned into a mosque after the city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned Hagia Sophia into a museum in 1934; a sign of his commitment to a secular future for the country – separating state from religion.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to issue his decree comes after a landmark decision by Turkey’s high court that the Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a museum was unlawful.
Greece described the ruling as an “open provocation to the civilised world”, with the US and UNESCO also among those condemning the decision.
The move is not about creating more space for prayer as Istanbul has more than 3,000 mosques.