Turkey has decided to turn the recently renovated Holy Trinity Armenian Church in the south-central Konya province into a cultural centre, the Armenian weekly newspaper Agos reported.
The 19th-century building, which has been closed to worship and visitors even after restoration project ended in 2017, will be re-opened as the World Masters of Humour Art House at an unannounced date, Agos said.
The project was carried out by the Akşehir municipality and the Konya Plain Project Regional Development Administration (KOP), at a total cost of 3.5 million Turkish liras ($475,000), it said.
The church is the latest historical Christian house of worship that Turkey has repurposed as either a mosque or religious tourism site this year. The sites include the Byzantine Chora Church and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
U.S.-based non-profit International Christian Concern slammed the Turkish authorities for not making efforts to restore the churches “back to their original Christian community”.
When repurposing sites of worship for religious tourism, Turkey uses them “as an example to the international arena about how they care for religious freedom”, it said in a written statement.
“However, it is a point which confuses religious freedom with faith tourism,” ICC said. “The state reaps the monetary rewards of having churches restored into cultural sites and museums. Any remaining Christian community is forced to petition the state for access to these sites for worship purposes.”