Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that the iconic Hagia Sophia would be reopened for Muslim worship as a mosque.
The president made this known after the country’s highest administrative court, the Council state, ruled that the historically Christian cathedral could be turned into a mosque.
Hagia Sophia had been built over 1500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral in the Byzantine Empire, but was converted into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered the then-Constantinople in 1453.
In 1934, the Turkish government decided to make it a museum, and the UNESCO World Heritage site has since been a magnet for tourist worldwide, with millions visiting annually.
In a national address just an hour after the court ruling was revealed, Erdogan said;
“With this court ruling, and with the measures we took in line with the decision, Hagia Sophia became a mosque again, after 86 years, in the way Fatih the conqueror of Istanbul had wanted it to be.”
“God willing, we will perform Friday prayers all together on July 24 and reopen Hagia Sophia to worshipping,” He added.
According to Israelhayom.com, the Turkish president has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of Turkish politics in his 17 years at the helm.
Also, a report revealed that Christians were being falsely accused of bringing COVID-19 to Turkey with a series of attacks on churches sparking fear and insecurity among believers.
However, in a reaction to the latest development, UNESCO released a statement on Twitter, while saying, it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialog nor notification beforehand.”
UNESCO also called on the Turkish authorities to “open a dialogue without delay” which according to the body, is necessary to avoid a step back from the Universal value of the world heritage center.
Furthermore, the United States, Russia and church leaders also expressed concern about the action.
The United State Department spokeperson Morgan Ortagus said Washington was “disappointed by the action taken by the Turkish government.”
Also, the Russian Orthodox Church said voices of millions of Christians were ignored in the recent action taken by the Turkish president.
“The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard.” Vladimir Legoida, the Russian Orthodox Church spokesman said.
“Today’s court ruling shows that all calls for the need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored,” he added.