The Oasis Reporters
July 25, 2020
Four million people are looking for work in Turkey. The economy is not in top shape and inflation has risen 14 percent. With the coronavirus pandemic wrecking its own problems on the traumatized citizenry, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan makes a deft move to paper over discontent.
Erdoğan picks on the several centuries old Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom), and re-converts the ancient monument to a mosque for the second time in almost 90 years. Possibly to shore up his base in the only Muslim country that is secular.
Is Erdoğan trying to shore up his political position ?
He ups his distraction game by inviting the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis to visit Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom), according to a report by Anadolou Agency.
According to Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for the Turkish presidency, Turkey has invited everyone to the mosque, including Pope Francis.
Last week, Pope Francis condemned Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia and I am very saddened,” he said.
“We are making some arrangements to ensure that during Muslim prayers, the mosaics will be covered but not touched,” Kalin told CNN.
“The main point here is that there is no damage to these mosaics, depictions, the historical texture, and architecture of the building,” he added
These mosaics and architecture go back to the 15th Century.
The Turkish bureaucrat said that the Hagia Sophia mosque will be open to believers or non-believers of any religion- Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, to everyone.
And the world watched on international television stations, the Friday prayers that were held there, Friday July 24, 2020, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in attendance.
“Reactions to the conversion of Hagia Sophia are based on old views and prejudices – there is religious freedom in Turkey,” Kalin emphasised. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed the decree on July 10, allowing the operation of Hagia Sophia as a “functioning mosque”, according to which the country’s General Directorate of Religious Affairs would take control of the building.
Erdoğan also announced that Hagia Sophia mosque will be open for prayer on July 24, which it did.
The first Muslim prayer was conducted with quite a good number of people, including Erdoğan. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many wore masks. A lot more were outside.
Over the weekend, Erdoğan visited Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) and inspected the preparations before opening.
Across the Aegean Sea in Cyprus, the Greek Orthodox Church rang out its bells stridently in protest mourning over the conversion, Friday. Hagia Sophia had at a time been a Catholic Cathedral, a Greek Orthodox Church during the Byzantine period, and even a Mosque, before Turkish hero and father of modern Turkey who believed in secularity turned it into a museum for 9 decades. While the ever evolving history of the building continues, the economic issues facing Turkish citizens haven’t gone away.