More than 250 Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots gathered together in Famagusta on 26 May 2018 to celebrate the completion of conservation works to St. Mary of the Armenians and St. Mary of Carmel churches.
Conservation works to the two Churches were fully funded by the European Union within the overall 14.7 million Euro Cultural Heritage Programme that the European Commission is implementing through UNDP in Cyprus.
"I am honoured to be here today to participate in celebrating the completion of the conservation works of these two beautiful monuments" said Ms. Mary McCarthy, Director of the Structural Reform Support Service of the European Commission. "I would like to express my sincere admiration for the work of the Technical Committee of Cultural Heritage. It takes real leadership and vision to stand up for the common good and embrace Armenians, Maronites and Latins as an integral part of what Cyprus is and represents: a unique blend of cultures with a shared past and a common future."
Through UNDP, the European Union has so far helped facilitate the conservation of more than 60 cultural heritage sites across the island through a financial contribution of almost € 15 million.
"Deep is our faith, despite what has happened, that nothing is forgotten, nothing is lost in history and culture. The monuments are those that ultimately judge our position in history and in the world. This message, genuine and powerful, embraces today the church of St. Mary of Armenians. A monument of pain and love, as well as a combination of people and cultures at this edge of the Eastern Mediterranean. The church has its own history, which is the history of the Armenians, but also the palimpsest of the history of Cyprus." said Takis Hadjidemetriou, Greek Cypriot representative of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.
"We are aware that we do not simply work with buildings and stones." said Ali Tuncay, Turkish Cypriot representative of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage. "Shape given to stone by carving it, the painting on a wall are reflections of the culture, emotions, thinking and conviction of the person creating it. In carrying out our work, we do respect this. Cultural heritage and different cultures should no longer be factors that cause conflicts but factors that contribute to cooperation, peace and prosperous living of Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Armenians and other. Cultural heritage cannot be preserved by preventing the required technical and financial assistance for one of the sides or claiming authority over the other. Such policies only contributed to the deterioration of the situation."
St. Mary is the first Armenian heritage site to be conserved by the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.
"Within an approximate 30 minutes’ walk around the walled city of Famagusta, one can pass by Armenian, Latin and Maronite churches, mosques, ancient fortifications and Shakespeare’s Othello castle. Many of these are completed, ongoing or future EU funded and UNDP implemented projects of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage. By conserving these sites, we are not only preserving them one by one, for the future generations, but we are giving shape to the people of Famagusta’s vision of a vibrant and integrated multicultural city." said Tiziana Zennaro, Senior Programme Manager and Head of Office of the UNDP in Cyprus.