Letter of Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the subject of: Bishop of Karpasia Mr Christoforos prohibition of entry in his occupied Bishopric

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Κατηγορία: Επίσκοπος Καρπασίας

The letter was sent to:
• The ministers of Exterior member states of European Union, USA and Russia.
• The Delegates of European Union.
• The Patriarchs.

Nicosia, April 11 2012

I would like to draw your attention to an issue of grave concern to the Government of the Republic of Cyprus regarding the violation of the freedom of religion, a fundamental human right, of the Bishop of Karpasia Christoforos and his enclaved congregation.  

While the people of Cyprus prepare for the Orthodox Easter this coming Sunday, which is the holiest day of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, since March 12 2012, the Bishop of Karpasia Christoforos has been placed on a “stop-list” by the occupation regime and is arbitrarily banned from visiting and practicing his religious duties at the places of worship of his occupied Bishopric.

This provocative measure constitutes a flagrant violation of the fundamental human rights of the freedom of movement and the freedom of religion, which are safeguarded, inter alia, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in articles 13 and 18 respectively.

It must be stressed that since November 2008, the illegal regime in the Turkish occupied area has consistently rejected Bishop Christoforos’ frequent requests to conduct the Divine Liturgy at the churches in occupied Rizokarpaso, Ayia Triada and the Monastery of Apostle Andreas in Karpasia. His recent placing on a “stop-list” constitutes an unacceptable provocation which reveals once more the oppressive nature of the occupation regime and an affront to human dignity, our shared values and adherence to the respect of human rights.

The Greek Cypriot enclaved population who remained in their homes in the Karpasia peninsula after the Turkish invasion of 1974, have endured persistent violations of their fundamental human rights which have inevitably led to the dwindling of their numbers, from 20,000 in September 1974 to 336 Greek Cypriots and 111 Maronite Cypriots today.

The violations of their religious freedom were reaffirmed by the European Court of Human Rights, in its Judgment on the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus v. Turkey (May 10, 2001), which, inter alia, ruled that the Greek Cypriots of the Karpasia region had their freedom of religion violated by restrictions which prevented organization of religious ceremonies in a normal and regular way. The Court also noted the insufficient number of priests to service their spiritual needs.

More recently,  on April 5 2012, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, at the conclusion of his visit in Cyprus stated, inter alia, that “one of the issues brought forward was the limited presence of Greek Orthodox priests in the area” of Karpasia.  In fact, only one enclaved priest resides in Karpasia today and one other priest holds masses in Ayia Triada twice a month. Therefore, the placing of Bishop Christoforos on a “stop-list” and the prevention today by the occupation authorities to the Bishop to cross the checkpoint and visit his occupied congregation, exacerbates an already difficult situation and leaves the enclaved population without its religious leader on the holiest days of Christianity, the Holy Easter.

I would therefore kindly request that you exert your influence by sending a clear message to Turkey to immediately lift all the arbitrary restrictions imposed on the Bishop of Karpasia, so as to enable him to visit and conduct liturgy in the churches of his occupied Bishopric.  

Thanking you for your urgent action on this matter.

    Yours sincerely,

    Dr Erato Kozakou−Marcoullis