Cypriot Orthodox protest plans to build Muslim prayer room at monastery in Turkish-occupied north

Rizokarpaso, Famagusta District, Cyprus, August 22, 2023     

Orthodox hierarchs and faithful are outraged by plans to build a masjid—a Muslim prayer room—at the famous St. Andrew’s Monastery in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.

The plans came to light, reports the Cyprus Mail, when left-wing Turkish Cypriot politician Dogus Derya wrote about them on social media, calling the plans a “political provocation” aimed at incite hostilities.

Other authorities have pointed out that Rizokarpaso already has a large mosque, though the local mayor and others support the plans to convert a few rooms at the monastery for Muslim use.

Interior of Apostolos Andreas Monastery. Photo: trabantos / Interior of Apostolos Andreas Monastery. Photo: trabantos /     

Bishop Christophoros of Karpasia has denied reports that he verbally consented to the construction of a masjid. The hierarch is concerned this could be a move to test their reaction, as “it has been said that they would build a normal mosque” for years.

The bishop said that the Monastery of St. Andrew, which has an ecclesiastical, monastic pilgrimage character, should not change.

“Both sides should show respect for the religious sites, as this helps us coexist if we preserve them in the form that they have existed for many centuries.”

Following the considerable public outcry, plans to build the masjid were put on hold, but not abandoned, according to Erhan Arikli, the north’s Transport Minister, while accusing those who are against the plans of having an “anti-democratic approach.”

He added that it is his greatest dream to build a large mosque next to the monastery.

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