The sounds of a Muslim prayer that could be heard inside Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia on the first day of Ramadan - for the first time since 1934 - have become one more slap in Greece’s face.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fainted during a morning prayer on the last day of Ramadan. As they say, God marks the crook - before Ramadan, Erdogan promised that Muslim prayers would sound in Hagia Sophia throughout the holy month and he kept the promise: one of the prayers was even telecast live.
None of the local churches reacted. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople was silent as was Vatican, which is strange considering the fact that in 1923 it claimed Hagia Sophia back on the ground that before its fall, the Byzantine Empire signed a union treaty with Rome. Only Greece protested. And that was natural. In 1934, Kemal Ataturk ruled to turn Hagia Sophia into a museum. It was a compromise. And now, eighty years later, Erdogan has come out with such a provocation.
Turkey was quick to respond to Greece’s call “to conduct itself as a modern and democratic country, to protect the ecumenical nature of Hagia Sophia, and to respect the age-old tradition of this global monument.” “The Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Greece, instead of extending its congratulations to the Turkish people on the holy month of Ramadan and the ‘Night of Power’ (Kadir Gecesi), opted for distorting the recitation of Quran and call for prayer in Hagia Sophia,” the Turkish ministry said. And it was not the first such reproach. In response to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s complaint that in May alone, Turkish planes violated Greece’s air space as many as 141 times, his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim said that the Greeks also violated the Turks’ air space.
Turkish Labor and Social Security Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu was much more provocative: when visiting Thrace, a Greek region that has been home to lots of Turks since the Ottoman times, he said that the Greeks regarded the local Turks as a second-rate nation. “But you must not forget about the support of the 80,000,000-strong Turkish state,” the minister said.
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The Greek authorities ignored that statement. They had no time as at that moment, they were preparing for an annual gay pride parade. Before that, the Greek prime minister gave an interview to LGBT Antivirus Magazine and said that he was ready to support whoever needed his support (and he meant not only young mothers, whose allowances have been cut and not only refugees but also transsexuals). Among the participants in the parade were lots of representatives of SYRIZA, the leftist ruling coalition, particularly, notorious former Education Minister Nikos Filis, who is known for his combat with Orthodoxy in the education system and the statement that there was no genocide of Pontic Greeks in the Ottoman Empire. The parade was officially supported by 29 states of Europe and North America as well as Israel and its slogan was “The Problem of Education.” The Greek gays are sad that their education system has no programs saying that homosexuality is normal and that their matrimonial system continues regarding as normal only the marriage of a man and a woman.
In the meantime, the Greek authorities continue fighting the Orthodox Church. Particularly, they have adopted a law prohibiting a priest to be ordained until five clergymen have resigned. In its last report, the Greek Finance Ministry said that an archbishop in Greece earned just 2,600 EUR a month, while an ordinary priest earned just 678 EUR a month. As of today, Greece has just 8,200 priests and needs 2,300 more. Some small Greek towns and villages do not have priests at all.
But it seems that the Tsipras Government is firm in its wish to separate the church from the state. Some SYRIZA members were indignant to know that the church had used state money to bring the Holy Fire and the relic of Saint Barbara into the country. They prefer organizing cabbalistic festivals like Holi. A few days ago, a similar event was attended by as many as 50,000 people.
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Tsipras and his team is also very active in fighting xenophobia. In late May, Pontic Greeks from Athens’ Aspropyrgos suburb had a clash with newcomers from Pakistan. Last year, some Pakistanis raped two Greek women. And this year, their compatriots pissed on a memorial to the victims of the genocide of Pontic Greeks. The police stopped the following clash but detained only Greeks. A week ago, people from the Athens suburb of Acharnon went into streets to express their protest against the authorities’ decision to delay the punishment of a 23-year-old Gypsy man who killed an 11-year-old Greek boy while shooting at a holiday.
As you may see, while the Greeks are fighting their traditions, the Turks are actively using their religious and national traditions for expanding into the Balkans. The Greeks do not seem to have any counter-weapon, except for empty words.