June 27, 2016
Dear Ms. Bokova,
We are writing to UNESCO as we are aware that the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul (Constantinople) has been designated a “World Heritage” Site
by UNESCO. We are dismayed by events currently under way at the historic Church-Museum of Hagia Sophia in which Muslim prayers are
being performed thus threatening the secular status of Hagia Sophia which has been a museum since 1934. We are further distressed by the
fact that we have not seen any sort of protest emanating from UNESCO in response to the activities taking place within Hagia Sophia.
We wish to emphasize that Hagia Sophia was once the seat of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate until the Fall of Constantinople in
1453 when Hagia Sophia was turned into a Mosque. The secularization of Hagia Sophia permitted scholars and experts in the field of
Byzantine studies to restore the great Christian iconography and to highlight the historical and theological roots that were
responsible for producing this wonderful treasure which UNESCO has properly honored as a “World Heritage” site. The former
Church-Museum of Hagia Sophia and its wonderful iconography are in serious danger.
We therefore request that UNESCO take a public position notifying the Turkish government as well as the international media that
it opposes a change in status of the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul (Constantinople). Hagia Sophia is an important treasure for the world,
but it is also a holy site for most of the world’s Christians. As such, we appeal to your office to defend the integrity of UNESCO by
opposing the prospective destruction of one of its most famous “World Heritage” Sites”.
International Hellenic Accociation (USA)