Dear Mr. President,
In the significant, historic and critical issues of our day, the first being COVID-19, on July 10, one more was added, without provocation.
It is a problem that threatens to blow up relations between Christianity and other religions and Muslims for many years.
I am referring to the historically backward, politically opportunistic and explosive decision – expressing contempt to the international community, and especially to America – of Turkish President Erdogan to turn the great Church and global symbol of Christianity, the Aghia Sophia, into a mosque - after 86 years.
This decision must not and cannot stand. This decision is shameful; it is an insult, an affront to humanity and to you personally, as the leader of the free World. It must be overturned.
As you know, on Wednesday, July 1, your Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking on your behalf, issued a statement saying:
"The United States views a change in the status of the Hagia Sophia as diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building and its unsurpassed ability—so rare in the modern world—to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures."
This bridge, Mr. President, was blown up by Erdogan. And this was done for short-term political gain.
We do not question Erdogan's right to manage his internal affairs and the issues of his sovereignty – even though he also challenges the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus on a daily basis – as he thinks is best. However, the fact that he has the right to turn Aghia Sophia into a mosque does not mean that he should do so. Just because we have the power to do something, does not mean we should exercise that power - i.e., just because we have nuclear weapons, does not mean we should use them.
Turkey and Constantinople have thousands of mosques, some of which are magnificent - such as the Blue Mosque. They do not need another mosque.
So he shouldn't ignore or gaslight the global public opinion and specifically the opinion of the United States for something that has nothing to do with the national security of his country.
I address you as an American citizen, because you are the only one who can, if you so choose, intervene and persuade him to overturn this decision. Even if you persuade Erdogan to put this decision ‘on ice’ to be addressed again some time later in the future, it would be a big step in the right direction...
You are the only one who can do this, because you are the President of the United States and because you have a very good personal relationship with him.
You have done him many – even personal – favors, such as helping the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank, which violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and in which he and his family are said to be involved.
You have done a lot for him, to the point that misunderstandings have arisen, as your former National Security Adviser John Bolton reveals in his recently published book. He devoted an entire chapter to your relationship with Erdogan (and for which you justifiably feel bitter).
It is in your hands, as was the case with Pastor Andrew Brunson, who lived in Turkey with his family for 20 years and was arrested on charges of taking part in the coup against Erdogan as a follower of Fethullah Gulen.
At that time, you correctly predicted that only political and economic sanctions would move Erdogan, and you said that you would impose them, even on his judiciary and interior ministers. You insisted so strongly that in the end Erdogan had no choice but to surrender and release the pastor, whom you even welcomed at the White House after his release.
And you did it to satisfy your great electoral base, the Evangelical Christians. And you did well to do so.
The subject of Aghia Sophia is infinitely more important than any individual. And it will have infinitely greater political impact.
Raise your flag.
Ask Erdogan to reverse his decision.
There are still 11 days left before the first Muslim prayer service will be held in Aghia Sophia. Urge Erdogan to find an excuse to delay it, to put it on ice.
He cannot be allowed to show such contempt for Christianity, America, and you personally.
You will earn the gratitude of countless Christians in the United States and internationally. And you will have done both what is right and what is just
And also, for God’s sake, tell him not to dare disturb the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Hellenes of the City.