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07/24/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) –  One year ago the Hagia Sophia cathedral reopened for Islamic worship following its conversion to a mosque by President Erdogan. On this first anniversary of Hagia Sophia’s conversion, Christians mourn the loss of the cathedral’s Christian history and heritage.

The cathedral, once a proud centerpiece for Eastern Christianity, was converted to a mosque and then into a museum in 1935. For 86 years, Christians and Muslims could both wander the magnificent building. Now, Christians can no longer even step foot inside the hallowed halls of their ancient cathedral for worship. In the past year, more than 3 million visitors attended the Hagia Sophia as a mosque.

For the reopening service in 2020, President Erdogan recited verses from the Quran, and Ali Erbas, head of the Religious Affairs Department (Diyanet), read the sermon. Subtle and not-so-subtle tones of Turkish and Muslim dominance were incorporated into the Friday service. Erbaş, with a sword in hand, read a special khutbah (sermon) entitled “Hagia Sophia: Sign of conquest, our trust in Fatih (Sultan Mehmet).” Two green banners also hung in the pulpit, historically used as a sign of conquest in the Ottoman Empire.

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