Rare Pilgrimage Becomes Politicized in Cyprus

09/15/2019 Cyprus (International Christian Concern) –  Tensions have risen in Cyprus after a Greek Cypriot teen removed a Turkish flag from an occupied village on September 8th. For the first time in 45 years, Greek Cypriots were allowed to “pilgrimage” and hold a church service in this area. The teen had left the church during the service to remove the flag from a neighboring schoolyard.

The status of Cyprus is a hotly contested topic. Turkey invaded the island in the 1970s, which effectively partitioned the island between Greek Christian and Turkish Muslim. Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus has no legal recognition within the international arena and is a source of constant frustration for Greek Cypriots. Turkey continuously bars them from having access to their historic, religious, and cultural sites.

In response to the September 8th incident, Turkey issued an arrest warrant. Turkey seeks the return of the flag and a photo which was also taken. As a result, pressure is building between the two sides. Turkish leadership views the incident as an insult when the community was welcoming of the pilgrimage. Some Greek Cypriot leadership views it was a brave act of resistance towards the occupation. However, some Greek Cypriots have expressed fear that if this situation becomes further politicized, then their access to future pilgrimages will be disrupted.