Coupled with the policy of pillage, destruction and desecration of the cultural heritage of Cyprus that the occupation regime has been following since 1974, which has led to the destruction or desecration of more than 500 Greek Orthodox churches and chapels in the occupied areas of Cyprus and the illegal transfer of more than 60,000 ancient artifacts to third countries, the continuous violation of the religious freedom of the Greek Cypriots in the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is regrettably an unacceptable reality.
The Turkish occupation of Cyprus continues to violate the Third Vienna Agreement of August 1975, which is still the only agreement providing for the treatment of Greek Cypriots living in the occupied areas of Cyprus. The Order of Saint Andrew calls upon Turkey to fully respect the religious freedoms of the Greek Orthodox Christians who continue to live in the northern occupied part of Cyprus and urges the United States Government to condemn this unlawful occupation and work towards truly safeguarding the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the religious freedom, of the Orthodox Christians who reside there.
“Turkey Wipes Out the Christian Culture of Occupied Cyprus,” by Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, November 25, 2018:
A sixth-century mosaic of Saint Mark, stolen from a church after Turkey’s military invaded Cyprus in 1974, was recently recovered in a Monaco apartment and returned to Cypriot officials. The ancient masterpiece was described by Arthur Brand, the Dutch investigator who located it, as “one of the last and most beautiful examples of art from the early Byzantine era.”
Many other cultural Cypriot relics, from churches and other sites, were stolen from Cyprus by Turkish invaders and smuggled abroad. Some were recovered and returned in the past. In 1989, mosaics stolen from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria, discovered in the United States, were returned to Cyprus.
In the summer of 1974, Turkey mounted two major military campaigns against Cyprus and occupied the northern part of the island (which Turkey now calls the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” recognized only by Turkey). Since the Turkish invasion, much information has emerged not only about the atrocities committed against the Cypriots, but also of the destruction of historic, cultural and religious monuments….
In 2016, a report by the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that:
“More than 550 Greek Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries located in towns and villages of the occupied areas, have been pillaged, deliberately vandalized and, in some cases, demolished. Many Christian places of worship have been converted into mosques, depots of the Turkish army, stockyards and hay barns. This fact clearly proves that the religious heritage in the occupied areas has been the target of the occupation regime as part of its policy to eradicate the cultural character of the area. Moreover, important cultural monuments and places of worship continue to be completely inaccessible because they are located within the ‘military zones’ of the Turkish occupation army…
Read the rest here.