Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan converted another historic Christian church into a mosque on Friday, continuing his trend of reverting secularized museums into Muslim houses of worship as they existed under Ottoman rule.
Istanbul’s Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, which has been a museum since 1945, was first built in the 4th century as a monastery outside the walls of then-Constantinople, the capital of the eastern Roman Empire. Throughout the centuries, the building was expanded and rebuilt, and most of the present structure dates to the 11th century, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The former church was turned into a mosque when the Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453 and plastered over its 14th-century Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, which depict Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other biblical characters. They were uncovered again when the mosque became a museum 70 years ago.
As the Jerusalem Post reported, Erdogan’s edict “did not say when the first Muslim prayers would be held at Chora, or what arrangements would be made for the Christian artworks there,” but noted that the Turkish president’s recent reopening of the historic Hagia Sophia for Muslim prayers involved concealing Christian images in what was once the largest church in Christendom.
Orthodox Archbishop Makarios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia, released a statement condemning Erdogan’s action, saying in part:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the decision of the Turkish authorities to convert the historic Chora Monastery in Constantinople into an Islamic mosque. It is a decision that intensifies our frustration and concern, given the recent desecration of the Church of Hagia Sophia, which is the universal symbol of Orthodoxy and Christianity.
Unfortunately, the Turkish political leadership insists on following a path of disrespect for religious monuments of the Orthodox Church but also displays contempt for monuments that constitute a part of the world’s cultural heritage. There are currently more than 3500 mosques in Constantinople. There is no need for another one to be added to the list as most of them are empty.
Makarios went on to describe Erdogan’s actions as an insult not just to the Orthodox, but to all Christians around the world.
Erdogan has shown intolerance toward religious minorities in Turkey, especially Christians. In 2016, he plunged his country into a diplomatic spat with the U.S. when he imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson for two years on trumped-up charges of undermining the government. When Brunson’s case drew the attention of President Donald Trump, the response from the U.S. shook world markets.
Andrew Brunson elsewhere said he has been “astounded at the speed with which the U.S. is imploding” and how anti-Christian sentiment has surged during just the few years he was isolated. “The whole Trump election and everything that happened afterward, I knew very little about it. So when I came back to the states and just started reading and following news, it was just such a contrast to the environment that we had been in even four to six years ago.”
“It seems that the culture has become more overtly hostile,” he said, pinpointing how large corporations are now joining the media and political classes to push positions that often oppose biblical teaching. A segment of elite society has long regarded Christians sneeringly, he said, but opposition is now bubbling up everywhere and “is now spread to where it’s more of a grassroots thing that is growing.”
“There is a turning in our culture that used to have more respect for Christianity, and that is now becoming unpopular,” Andrew Brunson observed, explaining how young people are increasingly rejecting God and religion entirely. “And Christians are portrayed as being bigots, racist, and basically evil. And so, for someone to stand publicly as a Christian — especially a young person — they’re going to get a lot of pushback from their peers.” […]
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to stand for Jesus publicly, to stand unapologetically for him, to stand for the things that the Bible teaches is true,” Andrew Brunson said. Much of the battle rages over how truth and morality are defined, and he foresees the clashing worldviews leading to a point where Christians in the West might be called to suffer for their faith as he has.
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.