Greek president condemns conversion of the Chora into mosque

Turkey’s decision to convert the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior in Chora in Istanbul into a mosque was an “act of symbolic violence,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said on Friday in a Facebook post.

The Chora, or Kariye in Turkish, was serving as a museum since a 1945 decree made under the secular Republic of Turkey. The church had been converted into a mosque some 50 years after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in the 15th century.

Although the Hagia Sophia, one of the most significant monuments related to the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Christian faith, was converted back into a mosque before the Chora, the process had begun earlier for the smaller former church.

The conversion is “an act dictated by political arrogance, cultural insecurity, religious intolerance that condemns a treasure of Christian art and cultural nobility to obscurity,” Sakellaropoulou was cited by daily Kathimerini as saying.

She said the conversions “brutally interrupt the long-term intercultural dialogue between East and West,” and “remove valuable pieces from the universal heritage of art”.

Turkey had reacted strongly to previous critiques by Greece on the matter, saying the Chora and Hagia Sophia is the Turks’ property and urging its neighbour to facilitate places of worship for its Muslim population.