By: Aphrodite Kotrotsios, Co-Publisher
The Federation of Cypriot American Organizations and the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) under the auspices of the Consulate General of the Republic of Cyprus in NY, hosted a memorial service commemorating the 41st anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey on July 19, 2015, at Archangel Michael Church in Port Washington, NY. Church service was officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America. Michael Cavounis, Parish Council President, welcomed Archbishop Demetrios, and guests to their new home in Port Washington, NY and expressed his sincere gratitude for hosting the memorial service in honor of the 41st anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus.
Philip Christopher, President of PSEKA, thanked His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the board of directors of the beautiful church, all of the dignitaries and guests for attending the memorial service in honor of the 41st anniversary of the tragic Turkish invasion of Cyprus. “41 years later, as American citizens, we have been fighting for freedom and justice for Cyprus, and unfortunately, we have not been able to move this problem forward. It is indeed an obligation of all of us to continue this fight and to continue the support of the Cypriot people for their freedom and justice,” said Mr. Christopher.
Archbishop Demetrios stressed the importance of continuing the fight for Cyprus’s freedom from the Turkish occupation. He also stated that we must continue to educate people about what is happening in Cyprus because something of this nature should not be ignored.
A short film was presented called “Home,” reflecting the tragic situation of Greek Cypriots, who were violently uprooted from their homes and now yearning to return “Home” once again. Mr. Christopher expressed how many Cypriots have this dream, of one day returning to their home. Fulfilling this dream for his patriots is his mission along with other organizations. The film portrayed the destruction brought upon the island caused by the Turkish invasion. The occupied part of the island is now unrecognizable compared to what it once was, beautiful and full of life. Several Greek Cypriots were interviewed and you could just feel their pain of not being able to step foot again in their ancestral homes, their pain of losing loved ones and memories.
Thousands of people lost their lives, homes and livelihood. The island was divided into two. Over 500 Christian churches have been wrecked and looted, destroying the rich historical Hellenic and Christian culture. More than 200,000 Greek Cypriots were forced out of their family homes and approximately 300,000 illegal settlers from Turkey have now colonized the occupied area. Turkish troops still remain illegally stationed in the occupied area and are fully armed. Sadly, 1,500 Cypriots have gone missing since Turkey’s invasion in 1974. Numerous organizations are working together to help find the missing Cypriots. Turkey continues to illegally occupy Cyprus, completely disregarding violations of international law.
Mr. Christopher informed the audience that they are working very hard to find those that are missing. They were just in Washington D.C. and met with the State Department urging the importance of this mission. “The missing are our priority,” concluded Mr. Christopher.
In attendance was Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Costas Constantinides, the Ambassador of Cyprus to the UN, the Consul General of Cyprus in New York, Ambassador Vasilis Philippou, Consul General of Greece in New York Ambassador George Iliopoulos, Philip Christopher President of PSEKA, Costas Tsentas President of the Cyprus Federation, Paul Kotrotsios President of HANC and a few more Presidents of surrounding Associations.