Turkish presidential decree declares Greek Orthodox Church to be converted into a mosque

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Only a few months after the provocative decision to convert Hagia Sophia to a mosque, Turkish authorities issued a new presidential decree on Friday morning to re-convert a Greek Orthodox Church into a mosque.

The Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora was originally built in the 4th century, and was was comprehensively rebuilt around 1077-81. After a devastating earthquake in the 12th century, the church was partially rebuilt again.

Chora was turned into the Kariye Museum after WWII and was evidently restored, then becoming a UNESCO world heritage site. The museum continues to be covered with stunning Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.

The change in its status was passed in December 2019 but the decision of the State Council of Turkey had not been implemented, until today.

A tourist visits the Church of the Holy Saviour, a medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul on 21 August 2020 [BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images]

The Greek Foreign Ministry responded to the decision with the statement below:

The current decision of the Turkish authorities to convert the Monastery of Chora into a mosque is another challenge to the detriment of religious people everywhere and the international community that respects the monuments of human civilization.

Following the Hagia Sophia and despite the international reactions it provoked, the character of another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Turkey is being brutally insulted. Despite occasional declarations of respect for the rights of minorities and the multi-religious nature of its society, Turkey is violating its international obligations to the World Heritage Sites located in its territory.

Today’s decision by the Turkish authorities once again exposes Turkey to the international community.

It is absolutely reprehensible.

We call on this country to keep pace with international developments in the field of world cultural heritage protection.

We call on her to return to the 21st century, of mutual respect, dialogue and understanding between cultures.

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