RELEASE – Iconic Church Site Opens for Muslim Prayers, Sparks ‘National Day of Mourning’

Save the Persecuted Christians | July 24, 2020

Christians Worldwide Heed Greek Orthodox Church’s Call to Grieve Turkish President Erdogan’s ‘Violation of all Standards of Religious Harmony’

WASHINGTON — The international Christian community is observing a Day of Mourning on Friday, the same day the Hagia Sophia will open for Muslim prayers, just two weeks after the Turkish government forcibly converted the iconic church site into a mosque.

In response to Turkey’s lawless Islamification of the medieval church site, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America designated Friday, July 24, as a Day of Mourning, a time of lamentation and prayer.

“Knowing that on Friday, July 24th, there will be an ‘inauguration’ of this program of cultural and spiritual misappropriation and a violation of all standards of religious harmony and mutual respect, we call upon all the beloved faithful of our Holy Archdiocese to observe this day as a day of mourning and of manifest grief,” wrote Elpidophoros, the Archbishop of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), a leading human rights advocacy group, stands in solidarity with the Greek Orthodox Church and with Christians around the world who are being targeted for their faith.

“Increasingly, Turkey shows itself an enemy of the West,” said Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians. “Erdogan dreams of becoming the modern-day Caliph of a new Turkish Caliphate. His aspirations mean Christians are increasingly imperiled in this land stained with the blood of more than a million Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Assyrians and Greeks who were subjected to a brutal campaign of Christian genocide between 1914 to 1923 under the Turkish rule. For over a decade, Erdogan’s Turkey has allowed tens of millions of Sharia-supremacist Muslims to invade Europe in support of a population jihad with intentions to change the culture and fabric of European nations. Cowed by political correctness and multiculturalism, European leaders have failed to counter this threat. The effect of this campaign is glaring as radical Islamists have carried out numerous terrorist attacks like that of the beheading of Fr. Jacques Hamel on July 26, 2016, in northern France, knife attacks in London and multiple vehicle ramming incidents in Spain. Whole neighborhoods have been taken over and are now ‘no-go zones’ policed by Muslims enforcing Sharia in blatant disregard for the laws of their host countries. This provocative move by Erdogan is further evidence of his collusion with Islamists who feign friendship with the West, but in reality seek its destruction.”

The Day of Mourning designation came days after a Turkish court revoked a 1934 law that allowed the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, to become a museum and eventually a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hours later, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan formally converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and announced it would open for prayers on July 24, the Associated Press reported.

Built as a Christian cathedral in the seventh century, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque under Ottoman rule.

Millions of Orthodox Christians are among countless of others who are grieved by the Turkish president’s disregard for the cultural and religious significance of the Hagia Sophia. Critics condemned President Erdoğan’s actions as divisive, saying they fracture open discussions about Christianity and Islam that the museum fostered.

“The Christians across the world are slapped yet again across the face by this forceful act; however, I am not certain if they are feeling the affect just yet,” said Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. She continued, “The conversion of Ayasofia into a mosque is a declaration that concrete steps are being taken to revive the Ottoman empire, a ruling body which subjugated and committed many crimes against Christianity. In a very small way, we now can feel the magnitude of the pain felt by the Christians when centuries ago, the Ottomans forcefully took their Church away. This is a dark day in the modern history of the world.”

The Hagia Sophia, officially called the Great Mosque of Ayasofya, will be open to the public except during specific prayer times. Erdoğan claims all the Christian iconography will stay intact, but when the mosque is open for Muslims to pray, the Christian icons will be covered up.

The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on those who follow Jesus.

With so much of the world’s Christian population being imprisoned and/or harassed for their beliefs, such as Orthodox Christians, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution — Soviet Jews — by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christiansendeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.

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