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04/07/2022 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – For the first time in 88 years, Tarawih prayer, an evening prayer during Ramadan, was held at Turkey’s Hagia Sophia. Currently operating as a mosque, Hagia Sophia was built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral in 537. It later was converted to a mosque in 1453 and then a museum in 1935.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in 2020 that the historic Christian cathedral would be converted back into a mosque, a move largely criticized by the international community. The prayers held on the first night of Ramadan marked the first prayers held in Hagia Sophia since its conversion, as COVID-19 restrictions kept the building closed.

Lights were strung to illuminate the mosque’s minarets to celebrate Ramadan. Turkey’s controversial head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Ali Erbaş, led the Muslim prayers. Christian images inside the mosque, such as the Virgin Mary and Archangel Gabriel, which are in the direction Muslims face during prayer were reportedly obscured.

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