The Turks plan soon to repossess the iconic Christian cathedral Muslims stole in 1453
Holy Wisdom cathedral: The biggest of many being seized by Islam.
If Turkey’s Islamic government has its way, the ongoing elimination of Orthodox and Aramaic Christianity from the country will soon be crowned by transforming the Hagia Sophia, the iconic cathedral of eastern Christianity, into a mosque. “We are looking at a sad Hagia Sophia but hopefully we will see it smiling again soon,” Islamist deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc confirmed last week in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia, which means Holy Wisdom, served as the Byzantine capital’s main church from 537 until the Muslim conquest in 1453.
In 1914, Turkey (then the heartland of the Ottoman Empire) had 12.9 million Muslims and 2.75 million Christians. Today its population stands at 75.6 million, including perhaps 150,000 Christians. The inevitable Greek protests on behalf of Hagia Sophia will be easily ignored. The Orthodox Christian population of Istanbul has fallen from more than 500,000 in 1920 to maybe 2,000, according to Mihail Vasiliadis, who edits the community’s newsletter.
Islam seizes Constantinople in 1453: Eastern Christendom’s ancient bulwark gone.
Many historic churches and monasteries are threatened
Hagia Sophia’s stunning beauty was widely credited a millennium ago for drawing the pagan Russians toward Orthodoxy rather than Roman Catholicism. When the Turks conquered the city, the sultan immediately declared its cathedral a mosque. Thus it remained until 1934, when the secularizing revolutionary Ataturk converted it to a museum with restored Christian frescoes. In 2002, Turkey’s Muslim Justice and Development Party took power and began the process of rededicating it to Islam.
Recently, a Muslim students’ group demanded that the museum become a mosque again. Its application to the government was accompanied by an opinion poll indicating support by 97 percent of Turks. The government has already removed the structure’s legal definition as a museum. Other historic churches and monasteries in Turkey are being pushed through the same process of dechristianization, warns Vasiliadis, adding that “all this government cares about is consolidating the Muslim-led nation-state.”
The dramatic fall of Constantinople to an Islamic army in 1453, opening eastern Europe to subsequent conquest, is recounted in Chapter 6.
Turkey’s Islamic government jails journalists in record numbers
During the First World War, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed through government-instigated mass murders. Anti-Greek pogroms followed, led by the secret police, in part because ethnic Greeks had sided with the western allies in Turkey’s defeat. An Aramaic-speaking pocket of about 500,000 Christians in southeastern Turkey has been entirely eliminated beyond a handful of older individuals. For decades, Christians have been plagued by Islamic murders and assaults, pushing the survivors toward emigration.
Government pressure is not relenting after a decade in power. This fall Turkey rescinded an Ataturk-inspired ban on women wearing traditional headscarves while working for state institutions. With government backing, Turkish media have been forcibly moved into Islam-friendly ownership. At least 70 opposition journalists are in jail, more than any other country in the world.