The Greek Orthodox Church of the United States said Tuesday it is petitioning United Nations experts to coerce Turkey into protecting Orthodox Christianity’s cultural heritage following the Turkish government’s conversion of Constantinople’s landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said it was pressing U.N. special rapporteurs in the areas of cultural rights, minority rights, freedom of religion and beliefs to hold Turkey accountable “for its deliberate policies to erase the cultural heritage of Orthodox Christians”.
In a move that drew praise from the Muslim faithful and widespread international opposition, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree in July that turned Hagia Sophia back into a Muslim house of prayer. The structure, a UNESCO world heritage site, had served as one of Christendom most important cathedrals and a mosque for centuries, as well as a museum for 86 years.
Erdogan announced a decision last month to transform the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, another Byzantine-era church in Constantinople, into a mosque as well.
“By unilaterally changing the status, structure and name of these UNESCO sites, with particular significance to Orthodox Christians, Turkey is in violation of its obligations under international law to preserve cultural heritage and to respect the political, cultural and religious freedoms of Orthodox Christians in Turkey and abroad,” Archdiocese of America counsel Christina Hioureas told The Associated Press in an emailed statement.
Read more: AP