The looting of religious artifacts by Turkish forces (in Cyprus)


Julie Duin, “The Washington Times” July 21, 2009

by Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes


No man – or
child – is free until he realizes we care about them and desire to bring them
back to their honorable hour of peace and good will among all men. Peace begins
with love and understanding of others.


Pray humbly with
love for the Cypriot people! Works of love are works of peace. Let Cyprus be free
today! Let us do not just appeal for peace but also realize peace can bring us



Julie Duin, The Washington
Times, July 21, 2009


to Duin’s article as paraphrased in the publication Orthodox Heritage May-June


              * 500 Orthodox churches or
chapels have been pillaged,

                 demolished or vandalized.


              * 133 churches, chapels and
monasteries have been desecrated.


              * 15,000 paintings have


              * 77 churches have been turned
into mosques, 28 are being               used
by the Turkish military as hospitals or camps, and 13 have been turned into


Northern Cyprus has been
occupied by Turkish forces since July 25, 1974!  How long and difficult have these sixty years
of occupation been for the citizens of Cyprus, many of whom have lost
their lands, homes, farms and businesses as well as hundreds of Orthodox
churches and monasteries!  Year after
year goes by and we add year after year of silence as the free world says
nothing or desires to not to step on the toes of the parties responsible for
these outrages. In fact it was the Free World that allowed this occupation. Not
one country approves of this occupation; however, no country speaks out!


Some of us are
aware of what is going on in Kosovo as more then 153 Serbian Orthodox
and monasteries
have been destroyed. We should agree that both Northern Cyprus
and Kosovo are experiencing the same type of persecution; both of these
countries are enduring humanitarian crisises.

Serbian citizens
had to escape to the northern part of Kosovo from the southern areas out of
fear of loosing their lives while Greek Cypriots had to escape from the
occupied northern part of Cyprus
to the southern areas recognized by the European Union as the (only) legitimate
nation of Cyprus.
A line of freedom has been in existence since 1974. Anyone who crosses this
line of occupation established by the Turkish military will be shot and this
has happened on hundreds of occasions.


We should be especially
stunned to learn what has happen to Holy Orthodox churches, monasteries,
chapels and holy icons that are precious and dear to all Orthodox Christians
around the world when we read the article written by Julie Duin about Northern Cyprus.


When we investigate
the history of Cyprus
we discover that it was the here where the roots of holy early Christianity eventually
developed into the emergence of Monasticism. The official website for the
Orthodox Church of Cyprus lists approximately sixty local saints, and the most
famous of these are Apostles Barnabas and St. Lazarus. These holy saints
important source of early spiritual growth continue to provide hope and
assistance to the Greek Cypriots.


Pray that Cyprus be
totally free today! Never forget Cyprus or Kosovo! Our brothers and
sisters in Christ our Lord are waiting for us!



By Julia Duin, “The Washington Times,” July 21, 2009


Religious artifacts on the divided island of Cyprus
are in “great peril,” according to a recently released U.S. Helsinki Commission


Thousands of Orthodox icons, manuscripts, frescoes and mosaics have
been looted from churches, chapels and monasteries in northern Cyprus, ending
up on international auction blocks, says the document, the result of a lengthy
investigation by the Helsinki Commission and titled “Destruction of Cultural
Property in the Northern Pat of Cyprus and Violations of International Law.”


A copy of the 50-page document was provided to The Washington Times
in advance of a press briefing and panel discussion on Capitol Hill.


The panelists included Charalampos Chotzakoglou, professor of
Byzantine art and archaeology at Hellenic Open University in Patras Greece;
German art historian Klaus Gallas, who is a specialist on the international
smuggling of art artifacts; and Michael Jansen, author of “War and Cultural
Heritage: Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish Invasion.”


Most of the ruined property belongs to the Orthodox Church of
Cyprus, one of the world’s oldest national Orthodox churches, with the rest
belonging to Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite and Jewish groups.


Thirty-five years of occupation of Northern
by Turkish forces have ruined “a plethora of archeological
and religious sites,” says the report, which adds that the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been documenting
the destruction since 1984.


            According to the report:

500 Orthodox churches or
chapels have been pillaged, demolished or vandalized.

133 churches, chapels and
monasteries have been desecrated.

15,000 paintings have

77 churches have been turned
into mosques, 28 are being used by the Turkish military as hospitals or camps,
and 13 have been turned into barns.


A staff member for the Helsinki Commission said a copy of the report
had been sent to the Turkish Embassy in Washington,
but an embassy spokesman said it had not been received. “It sounds like a
one-sided presentation,” said the embassy spokesman, who asked to remain
unidentified because he was not authorized to comment on the record.


“There’s no input form the Turkish side. There is no coincidence the
report is coming out this week because it’s the 35th anniversary of
the intervention by Turkey.
respects all cultural heritages,” spokesman said.


The report by the U.S. Helsinki Commission, which monitors
compliance with agreements among members of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, also added that Cyprus, which exercises effective
control over the southern two-thirds of the island, has spent about $600.000
since 2000 to renovate 17 historic mosques.


According to the report, the 77 churches converted into mosques have
tests from the Koran inscribed where icons and paintings used to be, the St.
Anastasia monastery is now a hotel with a swimming pool and casino; the
Byzantine-era monastery of Antiphonetes has had its icons and murals removed
and said no art dealers.


Jerone Bowers, a Northern Illinois University associate history
professor who recently returned from studying in Cyprus, said in an e-mail that
while the Greek Orthodox artifacts in Northern Cyprus has been damaged, the
stolen goods have been smuggled out of Cyprus mostly through the southern part
of the island.


“There can be no denying the fact that the destructions of religious
cultural artifacts in the south has also taken place,” he wrote. “In Paphos,
for example, the Camii Cedfit was not only destroyed but replaced with a
parking lot, and the square surrounding the location is now called March 9th
Square, named for the date of the mosque’s destruction.”


The Christian church has ancient roots in Cyprus. Visited in A. D. 45 by the
apostle Paul along with is co-workers Barnabas and Mark (as recorded in Acts
13:4-12), it was ruled by Byzantine emperors for hundreds of years. It was
during this time that the vast majority of churches were built in the region
and decorated with brightly colored frescoes and tiled mosaics.


In 1571, the island fell under the control of the Ottoman Turks, and
in 1878, the British took over. The native Cypriots are divided into two camps;
80 percent Greek speakers and 18 percent ethnic Turks, with the remaining 2
percent divided among Armenians, Maronites and Latin-rite Catholics.


According to the report, the Greek (military junta) government, with
the help of Cypriots, armed forces, forced out Archbishop Makarios, the first
democratically elected president of the island, on July 15, 1974.


invaded five days later, taking over the northern 37 percent of Cyprus, ostensibly to protect Turkish Republic
of Northern Cyprus was
established, though no country in the world besides Turkey recognizes it. The Greek Cypriot-led
Republic of Cyprus
claims to be the sole legitimate government of the whole island, a claim every
country in the world except Turkey


The report says there are 660,000 Greek Cypriots living on the
island’s southern part, 89, .000 Turkish speakers in the north and 43,000
Turkish soldiers serving as an occupying force.


Source: Orthodox Heritage, Greek Orthodox Christian Brotherhood of
St. Poimen, Phoenix,
AZ., Vol. 08, Issue 05-06, May-June 2010, p. 26


Further reading on “Monasticism in Cyprus” access:





















  1. Η καταστροφή των εκκλησιών και μοναστηριών στην κατεχόμενη Βόρεια Κύπρου είναι ένα μαύρο
    κεφάλαιο στην ιστορία του παγκόσμιου πολιτισμού.Οι ελλαδικές και κυπριακές κυβερνήσεις
    έχουν θέσει το ζήτημα στην ατζέντα των διεθνών φόρουμ και της Unesco,καταδικαστικές
    αποφάσεις για την Τουρκία έχουν βγεί,αλλά μέχρι στιγμής δεν έχει επιβληθεί τιμωρία.
    Ας ελπίσουμε οτι κάποια στιγμή στο εγγύς μέλλον η ελληνική κυβέρνηση σε συνεργασία
    με την κυπριακή θα μπορέσουν να πείσουν τις Μ.Δυνάμεις για την εφαρμογή ενός ρεαλιστικού
    σχεδίου που θα κινητοποιήσει αρχαιολόγους και συντηρητές τέχνης ώστε να διαιωνιστεί η
    ελληνική πολιτιστική κληρονομία στα κατεχόμενα.
    Νεκτάριος Κατσιλιώτης

  2. Αχ αυτές οι μεγάλες δυνάμεις. Από την μία τις βρίζουμε και από την άλλη ελπίζουμε από αυτές.

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