A recent British report on the persecution of Christians around the world features shocking incidents of religious persecution, harassment and destruction inside the Turkish-occupied territories of northern Cyprus.
Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro in Cornwall, presided over a team of experts who recently analyzed several cases of Christian prosecution around the world, among which Cyprus’ incidents held a prominent place. Mounstephen helmed the project at the command of the British Foreign Office.
The report concluded with the shocking fact that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the entire world. This is a reality that Western societies have not acknowledged, since Western Christians are seen to enjoy basic religious freedom, without often considering the open persecution which is happening in other parts of the world.
Cyprus is a prominent example of how a European Union state can not only remain under the military occupation of another country, but have its Christian population continue to suffer from Turkish persecution.
The Cathedral of Saint Nicholas and later Saint Sophia in Cyprus’ occupied city of Famagusta. It was converted into a mosque in 1571 and is still operating as such. Photo: Wikipedia
While conducting his investigation, Bishop Mountstephen asked Christos Karaolis, the President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, to provide evidence regarding the current situation in the occupied territories of Cyprus.
The interim report of the British authorities underlined that the situation in northern Cyprus is far from satisfactory. It states that very single one of the Christian groups of the occupied lands of Cyprus, including the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian and Maronite, have seen their rights and their religious heritage ”utterly disrespected.”
The report suggested that confiscations of church properties, attacks on churches and properties previously owned by Christians, and instances of vandalism of church buildings have occurred frequently in the northern area of Cyprus, which is currently under Turkish occupation.
”Access for worship to the historic Christian Orthodox and Maronite churches in the area is severely restricted (only once a year if specific permission is granted in many cases) and even in the small number of churches where regular Sunday services are permitted, intrusive police surveillance is complained of and services may occasionally be closed down by force and the congregation evicted without notice,” the British report charges.
“Other churches are able to worship weekly but also complain of intrusive police surveillance. Many historic churches and associated cemeteries in the area have also been allowed to fall into disrepair, be vandalized or converted to other uses,” the report noted.
From at least 500 churches which still exist across the occupied territories, a total of seventy-seven have been converted into mosques by the Turks; twenty-eight have even been made into army depots or barracks for soldiers.
One of the most shocking charges in the report states that more than 60,000 Orthodox Christian icons are currently known to have been looted, and 20,000 additional icons are still missing, without any idea where they have ended up or if they have been completely destroyed altogether.
Cyprus remains a prominent, and heartbreaking, example of how much destruction hatred and war can bring upon humanity and the priceless, irreplaceable culture of the West.