World Bulletin / News Desk
The Religious Affairs Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Talip Atalay, made history by paying a visit to the Maronite Christian community in the Greek Cypriot-controlled southern Cyprus.
Atalay was invited via the mediation of a Swiss diplomat by Maronite archbishop Youssef Soueif, and was accompanied by his permanent representative in the Greek Cypriot-controlled south, Sakir Alemdar.
Addressing the congregation with messages of peace, Atalay became the first official TRNC Religious Affairs minister to visit the south. While his deputy Sakir Alemdar is a native Turkish Cypriot and is allowed to visit the Greek Cypriot south freely, Atalay - who was born to parents originating from Turkey - had by Greek Cypriot laws been previously denied access to the south.
The Maronite archbishop thanked Atalay for his visit and expressed his hope that such events would aid the familiarization and integration between Muslims and Christians on the island.
Maronite Christians originate of Lebanon and have been living in Cyprus for almost a thousand years, where they still hoist Lebanese flags over their churches and continue to speak their own dialect of Cypriot Arabic written in Greek characters.
The Maronite community was largely neutral in the war between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots between 1963 to 1974, and remained on both sides of the island after Turkey's intervention on July 20, 1974 resulted in the split of the island.Last Mod: 24 Mart 2014, 13:02