The head of the World Council of Churches has written to Turkey’s President expressing his grief and dismay over Turkey’s choice to alter the standing of Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque.
As a World Heritage museum, Hagia Sophia has been a spot of openness, encounter and inspiration for individuals from all nations, interim secretary basic Ioan Sauca mentioned within the letter launched Saturday by the Geneva-based group.
The colossal Hagia Sophia was constructed 1,500 years in the past as an Orthodox Christian cathedral and was transformed right into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, now Istanbul, in 1453.
The secular Turkish authorities determined in 1934 to make it a museum, and tens of millions of vacationers now go to the landmark yearly.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally transformed the constructing again right into a mosque Friday and declared it open for Muslim worship hours after a excessive court docket annulled the 1934 authorities choice.
Sauca mentioned the museum standing had been a strong expression of Turkey’s dedication to inclusion and secularism.
He urged Erdogan to rethink the choice within the pursuits of selling mutual understanding, respect, dialogue and cooperation, and avoiding cultivating outdated animosities and divisions.
The WCC says its membership contains 350 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican church buildings with some 500 million believers.
Erdogan, a religious Muslim, has regularly used the controversy over Hagia Sophia to drum up help for his Islamic-rooted occasion. The choice has provoked deep dismay amongst Orthodox Christians and powerful criticism from neighbor and rival Greece.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian additionally mentioned France deplores Turkey’s choice on Hagia Sophia.
These choices forged doubt on one of essentially the most symbolic acts of fashionable and secular Turkey, the minister mentioned in an announcement.
The integrity of this spiritual, architectural and historic jewel, a logo of spiritual freedom, tolerance and variety, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, should be preserved,” he mentioned.
“Hagia Sophia should proceed to signify the plurality and variety of spiritual heritage, dialogue and tolerance.
The U.S. State Department has mentioned it was dissatisfied by the choice and appears ahead to seeing how Turkey plans to maintain the landmark open to all.