Remember Freedom of Religion - Opinion
The Turkish-Cypriot authorities who interrupted a Greek-Orthodox Christmas Day ceremony in Rizokarpaso should be thinking twice about their actions, because the freedom to practise one's religion is protected under human rights laws in the EU and worldwide.
It does not set a good example to communities here and abroad when such a policy is followed; and it reflects badly on the Turkish-Cypriots - their ability to fit into EU values, and to get along with other Cypriots. Make no mistake, suppressing anyone's freedom of religion is against basic human rights, and is a clear sign of a dictatorial approach to the church.
Some observers - including President Christofias - said that the event was in reaction to the APOEL fans who attacked a Turkish basketball team in Nicosia. But this is not proven, and even if it were linked, would be a singularly inappropriate way to respond. Sports and religion are two separate things; and hooliganism is a well-known scourge in our society today. Of course, the government should certainly take measures to handle it more seriously, like getting more security into the stadia. As it is APOEL will pay a 40,000 euros fine, and the team's management should thank their lucky stars that no one was killed.
Truth is, restricting religious freedom has long been a policy practiced in the north, and it is certainly not the first time that Orthodox practitioners have been harassed by the authorities there. It's time for the Turkish-Cypriot authorities to stop suppressing religious practice, allow the Orthodox Church to fix their churches in the north, and let people worship in the way they want. Any other approach is against human rights laws, intolerant, and unwise.