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Hope for the Armenic church in Lefkosa

The Swedish Embassy in Cyprus plays a key role in trying to reach an agreement for the members of the Armenian Orthodox Church, to once again worship the historic Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church in Lefkosa.
The church was a gift to the Armenian community of the Ottoman rulers of Cyprus in 1571 and was restored between 2009 and 2013 with a contribution of approximately £2 million from the UN document for cooperation and trust in Cyprus (UNDP-ACT). Controversy followed, however, when Vakiflar, TRNC’s religious and cultural foundation, granted a 10-year lease of the church complex to the Near East University – which has announced plans to use part of the church to accommodate a Turkish-Islamic cultural center.
The university said in February that it withdrew from the agreement, as Vakiflar had failed to hand over the church on the agreed date and because of the negative press about the intended use of the church.
Swedish embassy official Peter Weiderud has organized talks between religious groups on the island about the future of Sourp Asdvadzadzin church and he is prepared to do more to reach the solution.
“The Turkish Cypriot authorities should allow Armenians to hold services there when they want, and, on the other hand, the Armenians should establish contacts with relevant Turks,” he said.
The church has the potential to renew confidence and develop relations between Turkish Cypriots and Armenians.
Referring to a meeting, which he helped to mediate between the Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Herkelian and Talip Atalay, leader of the “TRNC’s religious affairs department,” Mr. Weiderud said he could arrange similar meetings involving Vakiflar or other TRNC official for to discuss the issue.
The new director of Vakiflar, Ibrahim Benter, said he has not yet had the opportunity to study the file, if Sourp Asdvadzadzin church, but could not see any reason why Armenians should be prevented from holding services there.
“Just like we go to the south and hold prayers at Hala Sultan Tekke, Armenians should be able to do it in his church,” he said.
UNDP-ACT’s project manager, Christopher Louise, said they are waiting to discuss the future of the church with Mr.Benter and want to complete an agreement before UNDP-ACT’s involvement expires at the end of this year.

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About Sophia Söderholm 2588 Articles
At the age of ten Sophia moved from Sweden in 1998 and has since lived in several locations around the world including Spain, and has been residing in North Cyprus for four years now. Her educational background is in marketing, hotel management and real estate, and she now works as a real estate agent and is editor in chief for New Cyprus Magazine. If you any questions for Sophia, please write to: sophia@newcyprusmagazine.com.