I Prayed have prayed
Lord, we pray for your peace and protection on our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Turkey has a major new mosque. Well, really it’s an old mosque. And actually it began as a huge church.

What is this place?

It is Hagia Sophia, a 6th century cathedral originally dedicated to the “Holy Wisdom.” Constructed in 537 A.D. by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I overlooking the Bosporos in Constantinople, it was a crown jewel for the empire and the eastern church. In fact, it was the largest church in the world for hundreds of years.

In 1453 Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror laid siege to Constantinople. After capturing the Byzantine capital, the Ottoman emperor proceeded to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. It remained that way until the early 20th century, when a secular Turkish leader — Kemal Ataturk — decreed that it should become a museum. Later, in 1985, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it part of a world heritage site in Istanbul and it has become one of the most visited places in Turkey. Last year it attracted 3.7 million people!

However, the secularization of the church/mosque never sat well with some.

Now, enter 2020. Many of us remember current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from the battle to free incarcerated American pastor Andrew Brunson. His base of support includes Muslim conservatives who longed for years to see Hagia Sophia turned back into a functioning mosque. In line with that hope, Erdoğan led an effort to see the Ataturk administration’s 1934 order revoked and Muslim prayers to begin again in Hagia Sophia last month.

This controversy hasn’t been front page news here in the U.S., but should it be on our radar?

I think it’s easy for us — Christians in the West… especially evangelicals — to perhaps think, “Hey, it’s just a building. If a church congregation hasn’t been meeting there for hundreds of the years, what’s the big deal?”

Well, let me offer a few thoughts for consideration.

First, we have brothers and sisters in Christ in the Orthodox Christian community for whom this is a VERY big deal. Christian leaders in Greece, Russia, and elsewhere have sounded their concerns loudly, and we should try hard to listen and understand.

Among the concerned is Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America Elpidophoros, who met personally with President Donald Trump on this matter late last month. Asked why he was so worried about Turkey’s new move, Elpidophoros told BBC, “…if the state is endorsing the mentality of the conqueror, saying it’s my conquered right to have Hagia Sophia as a mosque, then this is a dangerous path, we don’t know where it can guide us, and this is my fear.”

And that leads to my second thought. We should be watching this change with an eye on what it could mean for persecuted religious minorities, included Christians.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has monitored Turkey for years. In fact, USCIRF recommended earlier this year that Turkey — one of our NATO allies — be added to the State Department’s Special Watch List for religious freedom violators. In that vein, in a release denouncing the Hagia Sophia mosque designation, USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel said. “This decision comes at a time of increased fear and insecurity due to recent attacks on churches and other threats against religious and ethnic minorities and will only add to their sense of marginalization under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.”

One additional thought — I think we need to be viewing this move in light of the region’s stability. The Hagia Sophia controversy comes as Turkey is working to assert itself as a power player more broadly. It’s no accident that Greece and Egypt are drawing closer as Turkey and Libya are growing their strategic partnership. Moreover, there is a confusing web of relationships and activities in places like Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.

And let’s never forget that Israel is a unique resident of that region.

I believe our nation’s leaders, particularly President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, need prayers on their behalf for wisdom as they seek to navigate this controversy over the Hagia Sophia.

Also, let’s be interceding for peace in region and let’s be praying with open hearts and minds for our brother and sisters in Christ who are seeking to live faithfully to our Lord in the midst of it all.

Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.’s public policy arena and Christian associations. A seasoned strategist, he aids organizations with research, analysis, and writing services, and he reflects on faith, technology, and the public square at FTPolicy.com. (Photo from Dreamstime.)

Has God put anything on your heart about Turkey, that region, or the Hagia Sophia? Share your comments and thoughts?

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August 15, 2020

Hagia Sophia started as church from day ONE built ! JESUS is waiting to Apply his words that NO power of Hill will Defeat my Church ! YOU Guys be Patient!

C.j ipex
August 15, 2020

This is absolutely true. I’m agree with this 100 percent.

August 15, 2020

No sadness here, because At the Name of Jesus, Every knee shall bow! Every element shall burn, even mosques stolen from Christianity. Praise Yahweh. Maranatha!

August 15, 2020

At least the place is used for worshipping the creator of the heaven and earth, and all that in between and beyond, the creator who is the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ismaiel, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad (peace be upon all of them). No need to be sad.

August 14, 2020

JOB 5:12 on
Lord frustrate the schemes of the clever so that their hands achieve no success, trap the wise in their cleverness so that the plans of the devious do not succeed. Let them encounter darkness during the day and at noon fumble about as at night
Rescue the orphan from the sword of their mouth the needy from the grip of the strong, let injustice shut its mouth and the poor have hope

Darlene Estlow
August 13, 2020

Father, bless your people in Turkey. May they have confidence in you and your peace
May they be bold in their witness. Draw many unbelievers to you through the Christians there

August 13, 2020

Lord your wisdom about this matter, you know BEST!

Trudy Sherburne
August 13, 2020

Yes, it is an important issue to keep our eyes on this and to do warfare in the heavenlies. This is spiritual warfare, and we are dealing with demonic forces in Islam. Turkey’s President Erdoğan’s is taking giant steps toward expanding Turkey’s empire and bringing nations under submission to radical Islam. One good source of information is Amir Tsarfati with Behold Israel.

Mel Teoh
August 13, 2020

Lord, Thank YOU for this article. You are ALL KNOWING GOD.

Your will be done regarding Hagia Sophia.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Carole Ann Neve
August 13, 2020

Can we agree to pray for a jubilee and this mosque return to the Christian’s?
Excerpt from the IFA article:
What is this place? It is Hagia Sophia, a 6th century cathedral originally dedicated to the “Holy Wisdom.” Constructed in 537 A.D. by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I overlooking the Bosporos in Constantinople, it was a crown jewel for the empire and the eastern church. In fact, it was the largest church in the world for hundreds of years.

Jim Reed
August 13, 2020

This is what Islam does. It conquers. That’s their Gospel. It is such that even a majority of Muslims cannot mention it because it goes against the natural morality that God has placed in all of our hearts. Only the militant Muslims are able to carry out what they are CALLED by Muhammad to do.

Please pray for a revival and/or A Great Awakening in our lost world by the grace of God Almighty. Amen.
That is our ONLY hope. Amen again.

August 13, 2020

Lord, we life up our brothers and sisters in Turkey. We ask Lord for your protection over them. We pray for boldness to preach the gospel. Send laborers into the fields that are ready for harvest. We pray what the enemy has done with this iconic church building would be used for your glory. May the rocks cry out and worship you from Hagia Sophia. We pray for the people of Turkey who do not know you. We pray that you would open the eyes of their understanding, remove the blinders from off of their eyes, that they can behold you. We pray for your angels to be dispatched to serve and protect your people and to advance your kingdom in Turkey. We pray for these precious people to come to you. We pray for government leaders to know you or to be moved by you to restore what has been stolen from your kingdom. We pray, our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth and in Turkey and in Hagia Sophia as it is being done in heaven. Give the Turkish people this day your daily bread. Forgive them their debts as they forgive their debtors. Lead them not into temptation, but deliver them from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. We pray these things in Jesus holy mighty name, amen and amen.

Dawn FOX
August 13, 2020

Thank you for sharing this article. I have a good friend who is Greek Orthodox and this is a very alarming issue for her family. As Christians here in the United States we need to continually pray for our brothers and sisters in Greece and elsewhere.

Karen Hardin
August 13, 2020

Excellent insight on why this needs to be on our radar! Thanks for bringing to our attention!


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