YEREVAN — Armenia has joined International community to condemn Turkish government’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. “We express our deep concern about the decision of the authorities of Turkey to convert Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, into a mosque.” MFA Spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan said in a statement.
“Hagia Sophia is not merely a historical and cultural monument. Throughout its history, it has been bearing diverse religious, cultural and political significance.
“Granting a museum status to Hagia Sophia and inscribing it on the UNESCO World Heritage List symbolized cooperation and unity of humankind instead of clash of civilizations. Regrettably, the recent decision of the Turkish authorities brings to a close this important mission and symbolism of Hagia Sophia.
“This decision creates a dangerous precedent for substantial changes of the purpose and the meaning of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This situation calls for close monitoring by the international community, particularly the UNESCO, for the preservation of historic sites with such status in the territory of Turkey”. The statement read.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday formally converted the building back into a mosque and declared it open for Muslim worship, hours after a high court annulled the 1934 decision turning it into a museum.
Erdogan has frequently used the debate over Hagia Sophia to drum up support for his Islamic-rooted party. The decision has provoked deep dismay among Orthodox Christians.
The World Council of Churches has written to Turkey’s president expressing “grief and dismay” over Turkey’s decision to change the status of Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque.
As a World Heritage museum, “Hagia Sophia has been a place of openness, encounter and inspiration for people from all nations,” Ioan Sauca, interim secretary general, said in the letter released Saturday by the Geneva-based group.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said France “deplores” Turkey’s decision on Hagia Sophia.
“These decisions cast doubt on one of the most symbolic acts of modern and secular Turkey,” the minister said in a statement.
“The integrity of this religious, architectural and historic jewel, a symbol of religious freedom, tolerance and diversity, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, must be preserved,” he said. “Hagia Sophia must continue to represent the plurality and diversity of religious heritage, dialogue and tolerance.”
The colossal Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral and was converted into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, now Istanbul, in 1453. The secular Turkish government decided in 1934 to make it a museum.