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article imageMuslims demand Ayasofya open as a mosque Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     May 11, 2013 in World
Istanbul - Ayasofya in Istanbul, one of the oldest Christian cathedrals in the world, was converted into a mosque and then a museum. Milllions of tourists visit it each year, and now Islamists want to open it as a mosque.
Hagia Sophia ("Ayasofya" in Turkish) was dedicated as a Christian church in 360 A.D. Famous for its Byzantine dome, it was the world's largest cathedral for 1000 years and the focus of the Greek Orthodox Church. It contained holy relics, colorful mosaics, and painted icons (portraits of angels and saints) on silver walls. In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople (the former name of Istanbul). He ordered Ayasofya (which was still the largest building in the world) to be converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, and icons were removed, and the mosaics were plastered over. Islamic features such as four tall minarets were added. Ayasofya was used as a mosque until 1931 when the Republic of Turkey, under the secular democratic leadership of Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, ordered it to be made into a museum.
Since then, millions of Christians have come from around the world to admire Ayasofya's arches, windows, stone carvings, and tile mosaics that highlight Jesus, Mary, and even Byzantine leaders (each with an amazing story to accompany the art). Most Istanbul tours are organized around a visit to Ayasofya, and every day tourist buses can be seen around the historical landmark while tourists stroll along with their cameras. You can even take a virtual tour online.
A group of Islamists have put Ayasofya in the news by campaigning to open the former church as a mosque even though the stately Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also called the Blue Mosque) is located next door. A lovely park connects the two grand buildings, and tourists can usually be seen taking photos of both while Muslim worshippers enjoy the Blue Mosque (which tourists can respectfully enter during non-prayer times).
Recently, Prime Minister Erdogan refused the building of a church in Ankara. Although Turkey has a Christian heritage dating back to the First Century when the Apostle Paul traveled here, only a handful of Christian churches still exist in Turkey, mostly on foreign-controlled complexes like the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul.
While some Greek Orthodox argue that Hagia Sophia should be opened again for Christian prayer, the Ecumenical Patriarch, spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox, does not support this idea.
“We want it to remain a museum in line with the Republic of Turkey’s principles,” said Father Dositheos Anagnostopulos, the patriarch’s spokesman. “If it were to become a mosque, Christians wouldn’t be able to pray there, and if it became a church it would be chaos.”
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently told the Open Ayasofya ("Acıksin Ayasofya") group to simply go next door to the Blue Mosque to pray and leave the former Christian cathedral open as a museum for Christians and Muslims alike to visit, but the group still sets up booths around Istanbul, waves banners, and hands out fliers in an attempt to reclaim Ayasofya as a place of Muslim worship.
On May 26, thousands of Turkish Muslims prayed outside Aya Sofya to protest the law that prohibits religious services at the historic monument. The worshippers shouted, “Break the chains; let Hagia Sophia Mosque open!” and “God is great!”
“Keeping Hagia Sophia Mosque closed is an insult to our mostly Muslim population of 75 million,” Salih Turhan, head of the Anatolian Youth Association (which organized the event) told the crowd. “As the grandchildren of Mehmet the Conqueror, seeking the re-opening Hagia Sophia as a mosque is our legitimate right."
Historically, Muslims have erected mosques with spear-like minarets on lands they have conquered. Istanbul has over 3000 mosques, and the skyline is dotted with them. Some Turks believe that if they build a mosque, they will go to heaven.
To some Christians, the whole idea of battling over a building is ridiculous.
"Jesus said 'the kingdom of God is within you' and 'when two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst,'" one Christian in Turkey remarked. "Christians don't really need a building because the risen Christ can live in their hearts. We should love one another and not fight over a building."
It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.
Ayasofya glows golden in the twilight
Ayasofya glows golden in the twilight
Inside Ayasofya  Christian mosaics  of Jesus and his disciples adorn the ceiling and archways
Inside Ayasofya, Christian mosaics of Jesus and his disciples adorn the ceiling and archways
BBC Travel
The mosaic of Mary and Jesus inside Ayasofya
The mosaic of Mary and Jesus inside Ayasofya
Wikipedia
Ayasofya s architecture has changed over the centuries
Ayasofya's architecture has changed over the centuries
To the side of Ayasofya  you can see old stones that still need reassembling
To the side of Ayasofya, you can see old stones that still need reassembling
A fountain at the park that connects Ayasofya with the Blue Mosque
A fountain at the park that connects Ayasofya with the Blue Mosque
A group of Muslim men gather in Istanbul to demand the opening of Ayasofya as a mosque
A group of Muslim men gather in Istanbul to demand the opening of Ayasofya as a mosque
Zincirler Kırılsın Ayasofya Açılsın
Muslim protesters march in Istanbul to demand the opening of Ayasofya as a mosque
Muslim protesters march in Istanbul to demand the opening of Ayasofya as a mosque
Ajans5.com
The Blue Mosque is a short walk through a park from Ayasofya
The Blue Mosque is a short walk through a park from Ayasofya
More about Hagia Sophia, ayasofya, Istanbul, Turkey, Christian church
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