FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus (Reuters) – Hundreds of Greek Cypriots marked the religious holiday of Epiphany on Sunday in a rare vigil to the fringes of an abandoned town wrecked by a war which split the island 45 years ago.
Against the backdrop of crumbling hotels and homes ringed with barbed wire, a Greek Orthodox priest cast a cross into the sea off the coast of Famagusta, symbolizing a blessing of the waters, and the manifestation of Jesus as the son of God.
Earlier, a liturgy was held within the walled medieval city of Famagusta.
Varosha, a southern suburb of Famagusta, has been fenced off and abandoned since Turkey invaded northern Cyprus after a Greek-inspired coup in 1974. Religious ceremonies in the north require permission from Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Ringed by a fence which extends into the sea, the former holiday resort has been off limits to anyone but the Turkish military since its 39,000 Greek Cypriot residents fled advancing Turkish troops.
“This is part of our being and we want to reunify the island,” said Greek Cypriot Anna Marangou, who is from Varosha.
“We want peace, we want to bring up our kids and grandkids in ways where people are safe…It’s a wish for a new year, its a wish we get our act together to do it,” she said.
Cyprus peace talks collapsed in mid-2017. The island’s Greek Cypriots live predominantly in the south, and Turkish Cypriots in the north since the 1974 war.
Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Angus MacSwan