02/05/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Turkish state media has announced that the so-called restoration of the Hagia Sofia “Mosque” in Edirne will be completed this year during Ramadan, including the installation of minarets. This building was actually at one time a church that served as a residential see of the Greek Orthodox until 1923, when a forcible population exchange resulted in it being labeled as a “dead diocese.” It was one of the largest churches in Turkey. The church was damaged by an earthquake in 1965 and has since been closed.
The decision to transform the church into a mosque was made by the General Directorate of Foundations. It shows a trajectory of prolonged persecution that targets ethnic-religious minority groups. The Greek genocide from 1913-1922 essentially decimated the Orthodox population, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands. Turkey has continued to demonstrate that the community is unwelcome in their country. Following the genocide, several churches were closed and have overtime been converted into mosques. This follows an Ottoman era practice of rebranding churches as mosques in an attempt to show the so-called “sovereignty” of Islam. Turkish news regarding the completion of restoring the building fail to mention any of its Christian history.
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