The Joint Justice Initiative – made up of the Armenian-Australian, Assyrian-Australian and Greek-Australian communities – condemns President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest attempt “at the desecration of one of the most important ancient Christian sites in present-day Turkey and calls on the Australian Government to join in our condemnation.”
Turkey’s leader, who has repeatedly threatened to violate Hagia Sophia’s (Church of Holy Wisdom) status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and convert the church – which is now a museum – into a mosque, has defended Friday’s “celebrations” of the day that marked the fall of Constantinople. As part of these “celebrations”, an official from Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) recited the Quran’s Conquest Surah (chapter) inside the Hagia Sophia.
“Holding a Muslim prayer service inside the Hagia Sophia is the latest in ongoing attempts by Turkish authorities to appropriate and desecrate Christian properties occupied over centuries, including those belonging to our Armenian, Assyrian and Greek ancestors. Most of the congregations of these ancient Christian sites were exterminated or forcibly deported during the genocide of the indigenous Christian population of the Ottoman Empire in the course of World War I and soon after,” reads the statement.
The Armenian-Australian, Assyrian-Australian and Greek-Australian communities, through the Joint Justice Initiative, call on the Australian Government “to condemn Turkey’s latest and egregious such transgression, to ensure that appropriate international efforts are made to preserve what remains of the ancient Christian sites and civilisation in present-day Turkey including the freedom of safe and fearless worship in Turkey.”