On Saturday, a video emerged online of a historic Orthodox church in Izmir being used as a nightclub. The decision to host an electronic music dance party in a religious building has been deemed disrespectful by some Christians and others who have seen the video.
The church in question is Agios Voukolos, dedicated to the first bishop of Smyrna, the ancient Greek name for the city of Izmir.
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has weighed in on the controversy, condemning the use of the historic Orthodox church in Izmir as a nightclub.
“Desecration” of a historic Orthodox church in Izmir
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying “We unequivocally condemn the act of holding an electronic music party inside the historic Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Voukolos in Izmir, which is presently used as a venue for hosting cultural events by the Turkish Authorities.”
“Organising parties constitutes an insult and desecration of a historical monument that used to be a place of worship in the past,” the statement continued.
“We call on the Turkish government to take all the necessary action so that the appropriate respect for the cultural, historical, and religious heritage of all religions is ensured on its territory,” the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs concluded.
.@GreeceMFA Statement regarding the party held in the historic Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Voukolos in Izmir
— Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών (@GreeceMFA) July 9, 2023
Reaction of the local Turkish government
According to Turkish media sources, the local municipal authorities have also weighed in on the issue and have apologized for the incident.
Bilal Saygılı, the Izmir provincial head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), joined the conversation and criticized the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality for its handling of the event. Saygılı expressed his opinion that there should be boundaries to such activities, emphasizing that the use of the church fell within the jurisdiction of the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality.
In response to the matter, the municipality issued a statement clarifying its stance. They emphasized that the concerned party had no affiliation with them and expressed deep regret over the organization’s negative impact on the Greek Orthodox Community. The statement read, “We are very sorry about the organization hurting the Greek Orthodox Community.”
“The İzmir Metropolitan Municipality sometimes allocates this place (the church) to paid and unpaid activities. One month ago (4 June evening), the organization held at the cultural center by a private firm under the name of ‘Youth Festival’ and with the application of no alcohol sales, was also authorized by the Konak governor’s office and police. It is not related to our municipality. An official report was penned on the grounds that it (the company) did not abide by the renting conditions and the company’s security deposit was not refunded,” the municipality further explained.