The Turkish Council of State has approved the conversion of a historic Greek Orthodox Church into a place of Islamic worship.
The Byzantine-era “Chora” Church was originally built in the early 4th century as a monastery complex outside the walls of Constantinople. It was later converted to a mosque after the Ottoman invasion of Istanbul.
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In 1945, the church was restored and preserved as the “Kariye Museum.” Despite its conversion back to a symbol of Christianity, a lawsuit was later filed by the Association of Permanent Foundations and Service to Historical Artifacts and Environment claiming that the building was a mosque and thus belonged to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Foundation.
The recent decision by the Council of State backs this belief and clears the way for the building to be converted into a functioning mosque, according to International Christian Concern.
“The Kariye mosque… is one of the public immovables belonging to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Foundation,” the council said in a statement, reports the Greek City Times.
Princeton University describes more about the church’s storied history and religious significance:
“Described by Osterhaut as ‘second in renown only to Hagia Sophia among the Byzantine churches of Istanbul’, Kariye Camii [Mosque] attracts much attention because of its rich mosaics and frescoes. The original structure was built by the Holy Theodus in 534 in the reign of Justinian. In the 11th and 12th centuries, it was rebuilt by the Comnenus family and dedicated to Christ (thus the name, Christ in Chora). The structure suffered the great earthquake of 1296 and was later converted into a mosque in 1511 after the Turks conquered Istanbul. Since 1948, the building has been the Kariye Museum, a popular tourist attraction.”
In March of this year, Turkish President Recep Erdogan declared that the iconic Hagia Sophia cathedral, which is also being preserved as a museum transformed into a place of Islamic worship.
“As you know, the mosque was converted to a museum in 1935, as a reflection of the (Republican People’s Party) CHP mentality. We may as well take a step and change that,” Erdogan was quoted as saying prompting outrage from the Christian community.
Many believe that this latest announcement will speed up the process of converting the Hagia Sophia to a full-fledged mosque.
Historian Dr. Vassilios Meichanetsidis told the Greek Times that the mosque conversions are “a sign of Islamic conquest and supremacy” that have their roots in the Ottoman period and the brutal islamization of the region.
“It was widely practised in the times of conquest and throughout the Ottoman period and thus most of the truly superb Byzantine churches were converted into mosques and suffered serious damages,” Vassilios added.
“In many ways, the conversions of churches into mosques or museums area part of a genocidal process in which a physical genocide of human beings (Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians/Arameans) has turned into a cultural genocide.”
Faithwire has reached out to International Christian Concern for comment on this concerning development.