Islamic Prayers Held at Hagia Sophia

06/01/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – This past Friday, Turkey celebrated the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. President Erdoğan held a festival at the Hagia Sophia with video displays and fireworks commemorating the victory, as well as Islamic prayers and a reading of the 48th chapter of the Qur’an inside the historic cathedral.

These celebrations were condemned by many international religious freedom advocacy groups. The Greek City Times called the Islamic elements a distraction from Erdoğan’s mishandling of COVID-19 and the declining economy. Advocacy groups fear that the celebrations are just a precursor to Erdoğan transforming the Christian Orthodox cathedral into a mosque.

Holding prayers and Qur’an readings inside the Hagia Sophia violates Turkey’s secularist state policies, threatening equal religious freedom within the nation. The Hagia Sophia was transformed from a church into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest, and later into a museum with the creation of the Turkish state. It is supposed to be religiously neutral under the current system. However, Erdoğan continues his push for what was once the center of Christian Orthodoxy to be converted into a mosque, further alienating the country’s small Christian community and ignoring the state’s constitutional secularism.

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