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24 May, 2024
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Apostle Andreas: A sensitive issue of religious space

Challenges of preserving Cyprus' heritage

Apostolos Kouroupakis

Apostolos Kouroupakis

The work of the Intercommunity Commission for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and its previous leaders certainly do not need my confirmation of their good work. Many times, I have written about the significance and value I personally attribute to memory, especially when things are at a standstill. It almost revitalizes it, though I'm not sure if it brings them back to life. Nonetheless, it keeps those connections in the mind alive.

The Intercommunity Commission for the Protection of Cultural Heritage has a significant task ahead, and what it has achieved is commendable, given the numerous, sometimes insurmountable, difficulties they face. The obstacles are many, and it requires considerable effort.

Having traveled to many villages and towns in occupied Cyprus, I have witnessed firsthand how easy it is for every trace of past existence to vanish overnight. The environment and the place can be altered so drastically that they no longer resemble what they once were. The situation is not easy, and time and people often complicate cases that seem to have been resolved.

One such issue is the emerging matter of Apostle Andreas, with the intention of establishing a Muslim place of prayer in the courtyard of the monastery. It's undoubtedly not a matter to be taken lightly, not by us nor our politicians. It's definitely not suitable for petty politics, mainly because it risks leading us into dangerous paths from which we may not be able to extricate ourselves, and then every objective might be lost.

The monastery of Apostle Andreas in Karpasia is a monument that deserves universal protection, both for its historical value and as a significant place of Cypriot heritage, where in the past, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots would come together during the festivities and determine their daily lives and social relationships amidst transactions. Apostle Andreas should not be and should not become a field for political maneuvering, even if we feel, perhaps rightfully so, that our side is being provoked. It is essential to know what we want to achieve in unique and politically challenging circumstances. What is our goal, and where do we want to end up? I feel that the actions that must be taken each time are surgical to save a monument from both sides of the dividing line.

The balances that must be maintained are so delicate that a single phrase could destroy what has been built for months. Things are not easy, challenges are many, and not all of them are visible to the naked eye. It is vital, therefore, to understand the transformation of the character of the place, the exploitation of religion, and whether the Machiavellian saying "People either offend out of fear or hatred" holds true. The Intercommunity Commission for the Protection of Cultural Heritage endeavors to erase these two words, fear and hatred, from collective memory, and it is certain that it is not an easy task, practically and psychologically.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Turkey  |  church  |  religion  |  heritage  |  culture  |  opinion

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