Cypriot-Armenia’s Make Pilgrimage to Occupied Monastery

NICOSIA, Cyprus–The pilgrimage to the Turkish occupied Armenian Monastery of Sourp Magar, organized by Armenian member of parliament Vartkes Mahdessian’s office and The Armenian Prelacy of Cyprus took place Sunday with the participation of more than 200 community members–most of whom were visiting the Armenian Monastery for the first time in 33 years. Participants recalled the past days, decades ago, when the community would gather for the annual Harissa, when Sundays would turn to a community happening and when the land of Cilicia would be visible by the naked eye especially during winter, when snow would cover the Taurus mountain on the opposite shore only 40 miles away. Sourp Magar Monastery is a very different place now. Destroyed and abandoned, it greeted the 200 pilgrims with its empty walls, empty floors and empty ceilings. The warmest welcome perhaps came from the current administrator of the Monastery – Ahmed and his father – who run the canteen and have been granted a "lease" for the monastery for 49 years. "We were against the decision of turning the Monastery to a hotel, but we would like the Monastery to be restored somehow. We respect Christians and we would like to see the cross on Sourp Magar some day", young Ahmed said in perfect English. The pilgrims explored every corner of what once was a very lively place while its abandoned and destroyed walls, evoked emotions and images of the past. Ahmed and his family hope to see the Monastery restored. Community members were quick to suggest that any renovation, alteration or restoration by UNESCO, or any other international body, should be done with the approval of the owner of the Monastery, who is the Armenian Church of Cyprus. One thing is apparent however, that whether we have a political solution to the Cyprus problem or not, and whether the borders are eventually opened or not, we quickly need to address the initial vandalism and eventual destruction by natural causes through neglect, of the Armenian Monastery of Sourp Magar. As one of the pilgrims architect John Guevherian was heard evaluating, it is only a matter of time that the already existing structures and walls will be unable to sustain another blow of extreme weather. Who knows when this will be? Most likely it will be before the political settlement of the Cyprus problem. That is why we all need to address the restoration of Magaravank, in a carefully thought-out process that will not upset the delicate political balances and restore a religious site with immense historical and architectural value, belonging to the Armenian Church of Cyprus. Perhaps the restoration of Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the Karpass peninsula and the Aghtamar Church in Van in historic Armenia, should serve as examples of how we should engineer the campaign for the restoration of Sourp Magar

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