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11/19/2019 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – The Turkish Council of State has recently approved changing the Chora Greek Orthodox Church into a mosque, according to local news media. Local reports indicate the belief that this decision sets a precedent for transforming the Hagia Sophia into a mosque as well.

Like the Hagia Sophia, the Chora Church is also serving as a museum in Istanbul. Under the Ottoman Empire the church was transformed into a mosque, and then in 1945 the church was again transformed, this time to the Kariye Museum. However, a lawsuit filed in 2005 by the Association of Permanent Foundations and Service to Historical Artifacts and Environment challenged this decision. They claimed that as a mosque, it is a public immovable which belongs to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Foundation. The recent decision by the Council of State affirms this belief.

However, it ignores the fact that the museum was first a church. It is second in renown compared to the Hagia Sophia, and was built in 534 AD. The church was forcibly converted into a mosque by the Turks after the 1511 conquest. Turkish media, most of which is state-run, is praising the Council’s decision to convert the church back into a mosque. The media claims that this will set the legal precedent for transforming the Hagia Sophia, a historic church which is also currently an official museum, back into a mosque.

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