Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots attended a joint church service at Ayios Giorgios Exorinos in Famagusta in the north on Sunday.
It was the first time Greek Cypriot churchgoers were able to cross through the Dherynia crossing, to get to the church. The crossing opened around a month ago. Previously they had to travel an extra 40 minutes to get there through another crossing. Dherynia is only two kilometres from Famagusta. The crossing point, located at Famagusta Avenue, leads straight into the town.
Along with Turkish Cypriots involved in bicommunal organisations, and officials, the service was attended by Disy leader Averof Neophytou and Famagusta Mayor Alexis Galanos, according to CNA.
Speaking afterwards, Neophytou said: “We are a people who believe in different religions, and can coexist with the other religion. We are Greeks and Christians and we must respect the Turkish Cypriots and their religion as well as our roots, our traditions. It is through this mutual appreciation, and mutual respect we will once again build our common tomorrow.”
Galanos said the mass has a symbolic meaning and sent the message that the people of Famagusta want to return to their homes and want the Turkish troops to end the illegal occupation. “The faithful gathered to demonstrate their faith, their hope, their determination to see better days, to reunite our Cyprus,” he said.
Pavlos Iacovou, a spokesman for the Famagusta initiative group ‘Our City’ said: “It is a meeting point for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and I hope we will be able to return to our city soon under peaceful conditions. ”
Serdar Atai, the Turkish Cypriot representative of Famagusta Initiative called for a solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible. “More and more people are dying and it is very sad for us,” he said. “The solution should come very quickly because we should give people the opportunity to die in their own homeland. We do our best to bring all these people together at religious or social or political events because it is worthwhile for Famagustans to be together and to have a common future.”