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US Ambassador to Cyprus condemns desecration of Armenian monastery

East façade of Sourp Magar, showing main entrance, probably fifteenth century. Public domain image.

14 April 2021 – Ann Arbor, MI

Turkish party goers living in Northern Cyprus held a “techno party” at Armenian Sourp Magar Monastery. The monastery, founded before 1425, is the only Armenian monastery in Cyprus.

US Ambassador Judith Garber tweeted last week that the US strongly condemns the misuse of the monastery and that the US supports religious freedom as a fundamental right. She said, “Freedom of worship is a fundamental value, and we echo the call from religious leaders that all places of worship, in use or not, be protected against misuse, vandalism, and desecration.”

Northern Cyprus is technically an independent state but relies heavily on the Turkish economy. After a coup d’état in 1974 which tried to annex that part of the island to Greek control, Turkey invaded and declared it an independent state by 1984.

Desecration of Christian sites by Turks is not a new phenomenon. A report by International Christian Concern last year detailed property rights violations by Turkey over the past few years. In these instances, the Turkish government seizes churches and church property and closing them to worship. The biggest example of this was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to change the Hagia Sophia church back into a mosque.

The US State Department in March detailed some of Turkey’s human rights violations in 2020, specifically mentioning the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In that conflict, Turkey was supporting Azerbaijan financially and militarily. The International Criminal Court has asked for states to recognize the conflict so that war crimes investigations can be pursued.

Read more stories like this from the Persecution Report.

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