The Greek Foreign Ministry has denounced a decision by Turkey that verses of the Quran be recited at the Byzantine-era cathedral Hagia Sophia on the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in 1453 as an “unacceptable attempt to alter the site’s designation as monument” and as an “affront to the religious sentiment of Christians throughout the world.
“Today’s [Friday’s] reading of passages from the Quran inside Hagia Sophia, a global monument protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site that has functioned as a museum since 1935, is not only an unacceptable attempt to alter the site’s designation as monument, but also an affront to the religious sentiment of Christians throughout the world,” the ministry statement said.
“This action is an insult to the international community and once again exposes Turkey, which has an obligation to respect both the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and UNESCO, of which it is a member,” it said.
“We once again call on Turkey to respect its international obligations and stop putting domestic expediencies ahead of its very privileged role as guardian of a monument as important as Hagia Sophia, which belongs to all of humanity,” it said.
Built in the 6th century, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Greek Orthodox church. It remained so until it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of the city, then-known as Constantinople, in 1453. Turkey’s secular founder turned the structure into a museum in 1935 that attracts millions of tourists each year.