Summary of Anti-Christian Incidents in Occupied Cyprus
The U.S. House of Representatives deplores: the inability of Orthodox Christians, clergy and other religious communities to access and hold services at their place of worship and cemeteries in the north; the disrepair of churches and cemeteries and the preservation of religious heritage (iconography, mosaics, and other religious symbols); the lack of schools and perspectives for young people in the north.
The U.S. House of Representatives called in September 2010 on USCIRF, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, to investigate the violations of religious freedom in those areas of northern Cyprus that are under the control of the Turkish military. The most relevant three issues were: the inability of Orthodox Christians, clergy and other religious communities to access and hold services at their place of worship and cemeteries in the north; the disrepair of churches and cemeteries and the preservation of religious heritage (iconography, mosaics, and other religious symbols); the lack of schools and perspectives for young people in the north. These things are of great concern because they endanger religious freedom and “any meaningful perpetuation of these minority faiths” in the north. One of the most tragic consequences of the 1974 Turkish invasion and continued occupation of the northern part of Cyprus has been the deliberate destruction, looting, pillage and desecration of Cyprus’ unique cultural and religious heritage. Apart from ancient monuments, museums, archaeological mission stores, and private archaeological collections, several churches, icons, and cemeteries have been severely damaged and/or partially/entirely destroyed. Cultural and religious heritage loss goes hand in hand in northern Cyprus. All aspects of religious freedom for religious minorities are directly impacted by the presence of the Turkish military; in areas not found directly under their control, there is more access to religious sites, but restrictions are still existent. Christian leaders reported that approximately 500 monasteries and churches have been violently desecrated, more than 15.000 icons of saints, innumerable sacred liturgical vessels, gospels and many object of value have vanished and several cemeteries in northern Cyprus have been purposely destroyed. These former worship places are now in ruins and some are even being used for non-religious purposes such as storage or community halls. A few churches were turned into mosques, museums or places of entertainment or even hotels (Ayia Anastasia at Lapithos). There are at least three monasteries that have been turned into barracks for the Turkish army and unique Byzantine wall-paintings and mosaics have been removed from the walls by Turkish illicit dealers in antiquities. The Turkish government has been urged, due to systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations, to bring its laws and practices into compliance with international standards on freedom of religion or belief. Sources: http://www.uscirf.gov/reports-and-briefs/annual-report/3706-2012-annual-report.html p.220-222 http://www.cyprusembassy.net/home/index.php?module=page&pid=12 http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/pio/pio.nsf/All/B9BE36B80832A97CC225759400247A9C/$file/The%20loss%20of%20a%20civilisation,%20Destruction%20of%20Cultural%20Heritage%20in%20Occupied%20Cyprus%20%282.17%20MB,%202010%29.pdf (brochure with pictures)