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Emperor leads heads of state in condemning Hagia Sophia conversion

His Imperial Majesty Emperor Jonathan I has led a group of seven heads of state in condemning the recent decision by Turkish President Erdoğan to convert the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

The statement, published yesterday, was also signed by Quentin I of the Holy Roman Empire and Wyvern, Aikaterini I of Imvrassia, Emmanuel I & II of Rhomania (formerly Mouzilo), Edward I of Ashukovo, Denis I of Vlasynia, and former Austenasian PM Lord Admiral Kennedy in his capacity as provisional head of state of New Virginia.

Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral by the Emperor Justinian and completed in 537. It stood as the greatest cathedral in the world and the centre of the Orthodox Church for almost a thousand years, until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in May 1453.

During the fall of the city, thousands of civilians and refugees took shelter in Hagia Sophia while a Liturgy was served. When the city fell, the Turks broke down the doors to the church and slaughtered, raped and enslaved those inside.

The Ottomans destroyed or plastered over the Christian elements of the church, and installed minarets and other features to convert the cathedral into a mosque.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the caliphate, Kemal Ataturk – the founder of modern Turkey – ordered Hagia Sophia to become a museum in a drive towards modernity and secularism. Archaeological and restorative work uncovered many of the Christian mosaics, and the building was open for all to appreciate its unique history.

Hagia Sophia was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

The decision of President Erdoğan to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque has been seen as a regressive move aimed at bolstering his support among Turkey’s Islamists, as well as intentionally insulting Turkey’s Orthodox neighbours in Europe.

Reports state that the building’s Christian mosaics will now be covered with screens and lighting effects, and that visitors will have to remove their shoes upon entry.

The action has immense significance for Orthodox Christians, for whom Hagia Sophia remains a building of intense spiritual importance. Many legends and prophecies concern the cathedral.

For example, one legend says that when the city fell to the Turks, the clergy paused the service they were conducting and vanished through a door on the south side of the church, where they await to complete the Liturgy. To this day the door has not been opened, and some say chanting can be heard from the other side.

Of more concern are prophecies by Orthodox saints of the past century which warn that the building becoming a mosque again will herald a war.

Regardless of any eschatological significance of this action, it remains one calculated to intentionally offend and belittle Turkey’s already victimised Christian minorities.

The statement published yesterday by Emperor Jonathan I and others is as follows:

It was with the utmost disgust and devastation that we learnt of the decision of the Turkish government to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. At a time when so many nations around the world are looking back at their history, critical of the colonialism and oppression of the past, the Republic of Turkey – a state built on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of its Greek, Armenian, Assyrian and Kurdish minorities – has chosen to continue to insult and attack the culture and history of the people whose land it took. This action, which is illegal under international law, has been denounced by UNESCO, by the EU, by the USA, and of course by Greece and by the Orthodox Church. Under the government of Erdogan, Turkey is becoming an Islamist rogue state and international pariah, and we condemn this action unreservedly. It is an intentional insult not only towards the Christian religion, but also towards all who descend from or value the Orthodox civilisation of the medieval Roman Empire. The whole civilised world has united in condemnation of this atrociously insulting act, but we may take consolation in the knowledge that despite Erdogan’s claims, Hagia Sophia does not belong to Turkey. Rather, it belongs to God, and may His will be done.

15 July 2020 (7528)

Emperor Jonathan I of the EMPIRE OF AUSTENASIA
Emperor Quentin I of the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE and KINGDOM OF WYVERN
Empress Aikaterini I of the EMPIRE OF IMVRASSIA
Basileus Emmanuel I & II of the BASILEIA OF THE ROMANS
Prince Edward I of the REPUBLIC OF ASHUKOVO
Sir Joseph Kennedy of the COMMONWEALTH OF NEW VIRGINIA
Despot Denis I of the DESPOTATE OF VLASYNIA

UPDATE 16 JULY 21:20 – Princess Hannah of Wildflower Meadows and King Ciprian of Juclandia have also expressed their explicit support for the statement.