Reopening Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia for prayers will not deprive it of its identity, as it will always belong to the world’s historical heritage, Ibrahim Kalin, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
Opening Hagia Sophia to prayer, as Turkish leaders have expressed interest in doing, will not hinder people visiting it, he said.
Turkey will still preserve the Christian icons there, just like our ancestors preserved all Christian values, said Kalin.
Reopening Hagia Sophia to worship
“All of our major mosques such as the Blue Mosque, Fatih and Suleymaniye Mosques, they are open to both visitors and worshippers,” Kalin said.
He also cited the examples of France’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre-Coeur Basilica, world famous churches which are open to both tourists and worshippers.
“Opening up Hagia Sophia to worship doesn’t keep local or foreign tourists from visiting the site,” Kalin stressed.
“So a loss from the world’s heritage is not in question,” he added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said at least 400 churches and synagogues are actively open to prayers in Turkey, he said.
“The non-Muslim community has been a part of Turkey for centuries, and there is no pressure against minorities in Turkey,” he added.
Ask the representatives of our Christian and Jewish communities, they will tell you that there is no discrimination in Turkey against anyone, Kalin said.
Kalin went on to say that the history of Hagia Sophia started in the sixth century as a church, continued as a mosque, and then as a museum.
He stressed that Hagia Sophia being a museum is the most distant status of the iconic building’s three identities.
It opened as a church and after conversion into a mosque, this is what it remained for more than half a millennium, he added.
After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, it served as a mosque until 1934, Kalin said.
Praising Turkey’s last 15 years under the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, Kalin said: “Steps contributing to religious pluralism, peace, and stability have been taken, and historic steps made.”
Source: Anadolu Agency