The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), the leading voice for Macedonians abroad, expressed its profound disappointment in today’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque following a Turkish court order that the breathtaking UNESCO-protected world architectural wonder need not be a museum.
UMD joins many leaders and international organizations, including U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, the European Union, and UNESCO in denouncing this decision. As a friend of the Turkish people, UMD hopes Turkey’s leadership will reverse this counterproductive decision and maintain its museum-status.
The Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO heritage site of great significance to Macedonians and Orthodox Christians around the world, was built in the 6th century AD by Justinian the Great who was born near the current-day capital of Macedonia, Skopje. A church at first, it became a symbol and icon of the Byzantine Empire, and that of the Orthodox Christian world for a millennium before the Ottoman Empire took over then-Constantinople and converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. In 1934, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, born in geographic Macedonia, the Hagia Sophia was declared a museum, part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, and Turkey’s preeminent tourist attraction.