ATHENS – Greece’s Foreign Ministry denounced the appearance of a electronic dancing band at the former Orthodox Christian Sumela monastery in Turkey and said it shouldn’t happen again.
Videos showing the music and dancing were “offensive” and “a desecration” of the monument, said Greek officials, asking Turkish authorities “to do their utmost to prevent such acts from being repeated” and to respect the site, a candidate for UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.
The recent images that were displayed on social media, showing a foreign band playing and people dancing to disco beats, said the news agency Reuters, adding that Turkish officials weren’t available for comment.
Sumela was founded in the 4th Century as a monastic complex built into a sheer cliff above the Black Sea forest in eastern Turkey, once Greece.
It was long ago stripped of its official religious status and operates as a museum administered by the Culture Ministry in Turkey but still draws thousands of tourists Orthodox Christian worshippers annually.
In 2010, Turkish authorities allowed the first Orthodox liturgy since ethnic Greeks were expelled in 1923 as part of a population exchange between Greece and Turkey. It closed in 2015 for restoration and opened in 2019.
“It is surprising that the permit was given to the band, as the Monastery of Panagia Soumela opens only for pilgrims,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said. “These images are offensive and add to a series of actions by the Turkish authorities against World Heritage Sites,” its statement also said.
Turkey has refused to allow the reopening of the Halki Seminary on an island in the Sea of Marmara, the religious site closed by the government in 1971, Greece still protesting.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who demanded greater religious acceptance in Greece for Muslims, had the ancient Aghia Sophia Orthodox Church in Istanbul turned into a mosque, where Islamic prayers are conducted.