The authorities in the north have been condemned by the Bishopric of Morphou for refusing permission for the annual church service to be held at Ayios Mamas in Morphou (Guzelyurt) on September 1, 2 and 3.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said: “It is regrettable that after a number of years [of allowing the church service], that the occupying regime is taking this decision which does to help the climate in today’s times where pilgrimages of this kind are reciprocal.”
“And I hope the explanation that will be given will not prove to be something that might prove to be prohibitive for such pilgrimages in the future,” he said.
On September 5, Muslim pilgrims are expecting to cross the border to visit Hala Sultan Tekke mosque near Larnaca.
The Morphou Bishopric called the move “unacceptable”.
“Although our request has been submitted to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force since the beginning of July 2017, the occupation authorities notified us through the UN on August 22, 2017 of their negative response,” the Bishopric said. “They used religious reasons as an excuse, namely that the liturgy celebrations of Ayios Mamas coincide with the beginning of Kurban Bayram on September 1.”
It added: “In our view, there is nothing that prevents Christians and Muslims in this country from holding parallel celebrations.”
The Bishopric’s statement said it condemned “this unacceptable act of the occupation authorities as contrary to international law” and also Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the basis of which every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom, alone or with others, public or private, to manifest his religion or religious beliefs.
On Wednesday, the Turkish Cypriot authorities issued a statement, as reported by media in the north, that permission had been declined for the church services because of security reasons. The statement added that the service could be held after September 5, when Bayram ends.