The Real Scoop on the Hagia Sophia
08/20/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – You may have heard the term “Hagia Sophia” circulating in the news lately. For many Muslims, it is through the lens of celebration, as the historic cathedral was reconverted to a mosque and held Islamic services for the first time in many decades.
For many Christians, though, this development represents the erasure of yet another piece of Turkey’s Christian history.
In light of the current situation in this nation, would you please take a moment to pray for the Church in Turkey today?
I have two words for you today, Hagia Sophia. Do you know that name? That is the name of the most famous church in Turkey. It stood for centuries. It was built in the 500s. It was the seat of the Eastern church in Constantinople and under Constantine, and it stood for centuries. It was conquered by the Muslims in 1453, the city was, Constantinople, and they took it over. The Ottomans took over and they captured the church and turned it into a mosque.
That’s the way it was for centuries until Ataturk took over as a secular president. He took over and he changed the mosques, the mosque rather into a museum. That was the 1930s. Since then, there’ve been lots of discussions about getting the church back and historically, “Come on, you guys need to give this back,” but all hope is lost once Erdogan, President Erdogan took over.
What really changed this past week is that Erdogan said, “We’re going to convert this back into a mosque.” They had the first mosque ceremony, they had the mosque service there, in 87 years. Erdogan attended that first mosque service. In his speech, he said that this was his lifelong dream, to turn the church back into a mosque.
The head of the religious affairs in Turkey was also at the ceremony or at the mosque service, and he had a special sermon, and I want to give you the title for this. You’re going to love this. Hagia Sophia: Sign of Conquest, our trust in Sultan Mehmet, the man who originally conquered Constantinople.
After the mosque, again, think about symbolism. After the mosque, where do you think Erdogan goes to? He goes and visits the tomb of Sultan Mehmet, the man who conquered Constantinople. Full of symbolism. He’s really saying something there.
You know, if you look at this thing, this has created a lot of controversy, and I guess rightfully so, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. If you know Erdogan, if you followed him and what he’s doing, this move isn’t a surprise. He’s a radical Islamist, and this was honestly to be expected.
You know, if you take a look at the social media, look at the comments on this issue and look at the comments of Muslims on this issue, I think you’ll be shocked. It’s constant notes of domination, and submission, and conquering over Christians. It’s horrifying, isn’t it? But those are kind of the classic notes of Erdogan. That’s what he’s producing. That’s what he’s getting the people fired up about. He’s constantly telling them that Turkey is under threat. The Christians are trying to take over Turkey, when they’re a minuscule part. There’s hardly any Christianity in Turkey, but anyways, those are his constant notes, making Christianity the boogeyman. The result is persecution and attacks on Christians.
If there’s one thing I would say to you it’s this. It’s like don’t be fooled by this move. This can really be viewed as a sign of weakness on Erdogan’s part. He’s in trouble politically. He’s taken over. He’s made himself emperor for life. He’s jailed all kinds of judges, people in the press, military people. He has enemies everywhere. He is no friend in democracy, and Turkey had known democracy for decades. So he’s under pressure, and there’s a lot of frustration with and anger towards him.
The economy is not doing well. The currency has fallen apart. Again, pressure all around. So what is this? It’s a diversion. It gets people’s mind off the problems that really are there and gets them focused on the fight.
Again, this is a political move, as well as symbolic. He’s trying to show himself as the second coming of Sultan Mehmet the Second, and he’s saying to the Muslim world, “Look, I am the strong man. I am the hero of Islam, and you should follow me. We’re resurrecting the caliphate, and I’m the one to follow.” That’s a big part of what he’s always thinking and doing.
What should our response be? Well, first of all, I would say again, look, this is symbolism. Okay, and what’s more important is the attacks on the church. Do you know Turkey killed over a million Christians last century? Brutal, brutal genocide against Christians and constant ongoing attacks and attempts to strangle the church in Turkey. That’s the real issue.
I would finally say this. Look, Muslims are not the enemy. It’s very easy to think that way. That’s what Satan wants to do. He wants to cause division and hatred, but Muslims are not the enemy. They think they’re serving God, okay. They sincerely think they’re serving God. So reach out to Muslims. If you know, Muslims reach out with the gospel, love on them, share the gospel.
Then lastly, pour resources into ministries that are doing work in Turkey. We do work in Turkey. There’s other great ones. Especially I’m a huge fan of the groups that are doing satellite TV into Turkey. These guys cannot … The governments can’t keep satellite TV out. Jesus gets in, the gospel gets in, and there’s nothing they can do, and people are converting everywhere. There’s an amazing historical move going on with so many Muslims coming to Christ in the Muslim world, the Arab world, so these are actually exciting days. That’s the real scoop on the Hagia Sophia. I hope that helped you.