The Greek Foreign Ministry has reacted angrily over a possible conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque following statements from Turkish officials.
“The repeated statements from Turkish officials regarding the conversion of Byzantine Christian churches into mosques are an insult to the religious sensibilities of millions of Christians and are actions that are anachronistic and incomprehensible from a state that declares it wants to participate as a full member in the European Union, a fundamental principle of which is respect for religious freedom,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Nov. 18.
“Byzantine Christian churches are an intrinsic element of world cultural and religious heritage, and they should receive the necessary respect and protection,” it said.
The statement came days after Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç expressed his hope to see Hagia Sophia Museum be used as a mosque, while already calling it the “Hagia Sophia Mosque” while speaking to reporters.
“We currently stand next to the Hagia Sophia Mosque […] we are looking at a sad Hagia Sophia, but hopefully we will see it smiling again soon,” Arınç said in a speech during the opening ceremony of a new Carpet Museum, located adjacent to the ancient Hagia Sophia complex.
The status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with a number of campaigns to open it for Muslim prayers being initiated, despite suggestions that this would be disrespectful to the building’s past as a church.