World Bulletin / News Desk
A mosque in the Greek side of Cyprus opened its doors to Muslims on Tuesday after having remained closed for the last 51 years.
Following the inauguration ceremony, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' religious affairs head Talip Atalay led the first prayer since 1963 in Tahtakale Mosque that is situated in the southern part of Lefkosa (Nicosia), controlled by the Greek Cypriot administration.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Atalay decribed Tahtakale region as one of the first areas Turkish Cypriots had to leave amid the inter-communal clashes in December 1963, just three years after a republic was declared comprising the whole island.
"It is so valuable to be present here as a sign of the hope that the pains will be healed one day and all will change for the better," he said.
The Turkish Cypriot official said that a permanent peace on the island would serve as a good example for the whole region.
"The two peoples, who lived for centuries in peace, must find the ways to have a future together," he added.
The re-opening ceremony was also attended by Father Savvas -- aide of Greek Orthodox Church Archbishop Hrisostomos, along with Klas Gierow, Swedish ambassador to the Greek Cypriot administration.
Father Savvas said the religious sites could now be utilized freely thanks to the revived relations on the island.
"The aim of the dialogue is to sustain freedom of religion. This dialogue paved the way for visits to religious artifacts and places," he further said.
He said that they were working in cooperation with the religious authorities of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus thanks to the restarted dialogue, expressing gratitude to the Turkish Cypriot government for opening certain Orthodox churches to the use of charities.
Ambassador Gierow dubbed the re-opening of the mosque and the first prayer after 51 years as a "historic event."
The island of Cyprus has remained divided into Greek and Turkish parts since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish peace mission to aid Turkish Cypriots in the north in 1974. Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders have been engaged in a peace process since February to reunify the island.
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