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Turkish Cypriot side restricts Orthodox church services in north

Apostolos Andreas

All Orthodox churches in the north will only be able to have religious ceremonies once a year from now on except for Apostolos Andreas, Apostolos Barnabas and Ayios Mamas following a new policy by the ‘foreign ministry’ in the north.

Speaking to Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kibris, the ‘minister’ Tahsin Ertugruloglu said it was a matter of restricting the ceremonies rather than forbidding them.

The affected churches will be able to conduct one religious service a year either on Christmas, Easter or the Name Day of the church year.

According to the ‘ministry undersecretary’ Mustafa Lakadamyali, the decision was taken to prevent “the exploitation of this right”, adding that they have constant requests for name day ceremonies and the Turkish Cypriot police have to take measures in the area for every religious ceremony.

He said police needed to be in place at different churches on the same day taking security measures during the religious ceremonies and there were problems in bringing religious icons to the north.
Thus the criteria for the permissions of the religious ceremonies were reviewed, he said.

Lakadamyali also claimed that Greek Cypriot authorities do not give permission to all ‘TRNC citizens’ to cross to the government-controlled area of Cyprus, even if it is a religious ceremony.

He clarified that there were no restrictions regarding Maronites.
Kibris also reported that Serdar Atai, on behalf of the NGO ‘Famagusta Initiative’ criticised this decision, saying this was a serious blow to the constructive dialogue and to the rapprochement process in Cyprus.

He added that ‘such chauvinism’ was not accepted at a time where the two leaders declared their full support to any kind of dialogue, and the religious leaders take a liberal stance. He expressed his belief that the religious ceremonies help renew old friendships between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Atai concluded saying that Ertugruloglu was also damaging to the positive atmosphere in Cyprus.
Leader of the Turkish Resistance organization (TMT), Yilmaz Bora, in a written statement, criticised the ‘Famagusta Initiative’ for criticising Ertugruloglu, Kibris said.

Bora was quoted as saying it was not possible to live with the Greek Cypriots in a United Cyprus, because the mentality of the Greek Cypriots has not changed in 53 years.

Burak Mavis, secretary of the Turkish Cypriot Teachers’ Trade Union (KTOS) criticised both Ertugruloglu’s and TMT’s statements saying it was a shame to attack people who spoke using the language of peace, adding that within the framework of the religious and conscious freedom, it was not possible to have a policy in a modern world by restricting permission of religious ceremonies. He said that this is was a backwards and racist political mentality.

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