I strongly condemn the Turkish government’s decision to re-convert Hagia Sophia, believed to be the world’s oldest house of religion, into a mosque.
Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the iconic monument of Christianity was specifically designated as a museum in 1934 and, under the charter, any modification of its status requires notification and review by the world body.
As our global attention is focused on the pandemic, Turkish President Erdogan has taken an action that is destabilizing and wrong. Greeks, Cypriots and Orthodox Christians worldwide know firsthand the history of Turkey’s unilateral and aggressive acts in complete violation of international convention, most notably in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as its mistreatment of Orthodox Christians in Turkey.
We cannot allow this latest aggression to stand.
I proudly join the call of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of which my late father was honored to be a member, to the international bodies and governments of the world to recognize that this decision by Turkey casts a shadow over its claims of a commitment to religious tolerance and freedom.
I call on President Trump to use his considerable influence with President Erdogan to back down from this ill-advised move and return Hagia Sophia to its status as a museum, respecting its internationally recognized origins and history.
I urge Congress to reiterate loudly and clearly to the Turkish government its determination that US foreign and military assistance support is intended for countries who respect the rule of law and international human and religious freedoms.
Hagia Sophia does not belong to Turkey or to any one faith, and this act should be condemned. As the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America rightly said in its statement: “It has been, for more than a millennium, a place of rich cultural and inspiration” and “should remain open to all as a sign of co-existence and peace among all peoples of good will.”
America is stronger and more secure when it fights for freedom everywhere.