A Tale of Two Buildings – the Hagia Sophia and the Free Church Manse

Jul 20, 2020 by

by David Robertson, Christian Today:

In a significant and shocking moment for Muslim-Christian relations, Turkey’s President Erdogan has announced that the Hagia Sophia, the beautiful and grand former cathedral, is to be turned into a mosque – again.

The first church on the site was founded in AD 360, with the present building dating back to the sixth century, and was the centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church for over 1,100 years – until Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453. From then until Ataturk in the 20th century, it was a mosque but for the past 85 years it has been a museum and is currently a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

But with President Erdogan wanting to appeal to his base at a time of waning popularity, he is now going to turn it into a mosque again – much to the dismay of Christians, not only in Turkey but throughout the Middle East.

The continued persecution of Christians in the Middle East is one of the great underreported stories of the 21st century. The Assyrians for example have shrunk from 1.3 million in Iraq to less than 250,000. They have scattered over the world. There are around 40,000 Assyrians in Sydney – one of whom is my barber! In Turkey, Christians are systematically persecuted. Foreign church workers are arrested and expelled; evangelical churches are regularly attacked by extremists. To even suggest that the killing of over one million Armenians by the Turks in 1914-1923 was genocide will result in you going to jail. I recall in 2007 being in Ephesus just after three Christian leaders had been brutally tortured and killed – the fear amongst the Christians was palpable.

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