The conversion has caused a lot of controversies. Many Christians are saddened by the move, especially as Christian icons in the church are covered up during prayers.
Ruins of Ephesus in modern Turkey. (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)
UNESCO has criticized the move, saying, “Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue.” Read the full statement here.
Syria even has plans to build a replica of the Hagia Sophia that will serve as an Orthodox Christian church. Russia has promised to help construct this new building.
Rex Rogers of SAT-7 says, “It’s a beautiful facility . . . there are incredible frescoes and other kinds of paintings that are being restored. And of course, the dome is a magnificent architectural heritage. So it still stands. And we’re grateful for that, glad for it. We trust the Turkish people will value it. And whatever usage they put to it, its history is still there.”
Christian History in Turkey
And Christianity itself has quite a history in Turkey, Rogers says. “If you think about the seven churches that are mentioned in the book of Revelation, Ephesus, Smyrna, and Laodicea, for example, were all in what we now call Turkey.”
More carvings in rock formations in Cappadocia. (Image by Blue_man from Pixabay)
Some of these cities, Rogers says, are still incredible architectural sites today. He mentions Ephesus specifically: “They say something like 80% has not yet even been excavated. But there’s a magnificent colosseum there. The library is there, and the baths that the Apostle Paul himself probably used. The very sidewalks, if you will, where the Apostle Paul lived and worked.”
And Christian heritage in Turkey extends far beyond biblical times. Rogers talks about the region of Cappadocia, where Christians hid during times of persecution. “The early church fled and hid in caves and incredible rock structures that are in that part of the world. They had hewn out whole auditoriums and churches underground.”
SAT-7, Rogers says, aims to tell these stories about Turkey’s Christian history. “Our audience and the people we’re trying to reach are mostly not Christians, not believers, so our point is to present the positive claims of Christ and Christianity.”
Pray that many would hear these stories from ancient Turkey and be drawn to Christ as a result.
The header image shows dwelling places carved out of rock formations in Cappadocia, where early persecuted Christians fled. (Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay)