Less than a month after converting the Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque, Turkey is moving ahead with its campaign to erase the country’s Christian past. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday ordered the conversion of Istanbul’s Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, or Kariye, to a Muslim place of worship. 

The move comes after Erdogan on July 24  personally led first prayers at Hagia Sophia, marking the turning of the 1500-year-old cathedral into a mosque. Turkey’s top imam carried an Ottoman sword to the pulpit at the ceremony, symbolizing the victory of Islam over the Christian Byzantine Empire. 

The sixth century Greek Orthodox church, preserved as a museum for its elaborate mosaics and frescoes, will now serve as a mosque by presidential decree. The church, much like the Hagia Sophia, fell into the Muslim hands when Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, was sacked by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. It was turned into a museum after Turkey’s secularist leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk took power in 1925, as he disbanded Istanbul-based global Islamic caliphate and set out to modernize the country.

Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported the loss of another holy Christian site:  

After Hagia Sophia, Turkish authorities issued a new presidential decree on Friday morning to re-convert the Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora into a mosque.

The change in its status was passed in December 2019 but the decision of the State Council of Turkey had not been implemented, until today.

Chora, which had been turned into the Kariye Museum after WWII and was then extensively restored, is covered with some of the finest Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.

Originally built in the 4th century, the church was comprehensively rebuilt around 1077-81 and again after a partial collapse following an earthquake early in the 12th century.

The church is registered as an Unesco heritage site.

Erasing Turkey’s history is another step in Erdogan’s drive to Islamize the country on which he embarked after taking power in 2003.  Turkish authorities under his watch have been seizing Christian properties, including historic monasteries, cemeteries, and churches. 

While erasing Christianity at home, Erdogan’s has repeatedly threatened to flood Europe with uncontrolled Muslim migration. In March, he encouraged illegal migrants to cross into neighboring Greece, declaring he had “opened the doors” for them to enter Europe. 

Most of the European and Western government are yet to respond to Erdogan’s latest outrage. The European Union’s foreign policy spokesperson merely declared that the bloc had ‘recorded’ Turkey’s decision. Brussels did not take any serious action against Turkey after it appropriated the Hagia Sophia for Islamic worship last month. The Muslim-majority country is being considered by the EU for a full membership of the bloc since 2005. 

The sharpest reaction came from neighboring Greece. The Greek foreign ministry condemned Turkish decision as “completely reprehensible”  and “provocation for religious people everywhere and for the international community that respects the monuments of human civilization.” 

Last month, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, had called for ‘day of mourning’ to mark the loss of the Hagia Sophia. Turkey had carried out an “unholy act of sacrilege” against a “holy spiritual center for our Orthodox faith, of Christianity in general,” the patriarch said at that time.

Pope Francis ‘deeply saddened’ by conversion of Hagia Sophia into mosque


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