HEMPSTEAD, NY – The Federation of Cypriot American Organizations, the International Coordinating Committee- Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), the Consulate of Cyprus in New York, and the Long Island American Cypriot Association held a commemoration on July 8 at the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Hempstead in memory and in honor of the victims of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America presided over the Divine Liturgy and the memorial service. Among the many in attendance were Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations Ambassador Maria Theofili, Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations Ambassador Kornelios Korneliou, the Consul General of Greece in New York, Konstantinos Koutras, the new Consul General of Cyprus in New York Alexis Phedonos-Vadet and his wife Melina, the President of the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations Kyriakos Papastylianou, and PSEKA President Philip Christopher.
Archbishop Demetrios referred to the historical events of the invasion and asked Greeks and Cypriots to continue the struggle for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
Following the church services, the commemoration continued with a program in the Community Center with a documentary on the events of July 20 and speeches. Consul General of Cyprus in New York, Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, said that despite the 44 years since the invasion, the wounds have not healed.
“We are talking today,” he said, “about the heroes who died in the brutal Turkish invasion of 1974. The majority of the fallen were 18-year-olds, although aware of being outnumbered and despite the immense imbalance on the battlefield, did not hesitate to respond to the call of the homeland and to give what was most precious, their life. They loved their homeland so much.
“Unfortunately, generations left with the complaint that they have not seen their homeland free. They did not see their ancestral homes again. They did not see their cities, their villages, and their neighborhoods again. They did not see the tombs of their parents again.
“To honor the fallen heroes that we mention today, I would like to ask for the help of the Omogeneia. I ask the Greek and Cypriot expatriates, with every chance they are given, to put the following dilemma to their American friends: What is in the best interest of the United States and its allies that Cyprus remain a Western and Christian state or become a Turkish-radical Islamic island?”
President of the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations Kyriacos Papastylianou, said that we should learn from history so that the same mistakes are not repeated.
“The sufferings,” he said, “should become lessons, because as a nation we have been suffering very much. My father, who survived with two bullets in his body since the invasion, always reminds me that disagreement and hatred have no place among us. Forgive, he says, but never forget. Revenge does not lead anywhere. It is the obligation and duty of all to continue the struggle for the freedom of the homeland.”
PSEKA President Philip Christopher referred to the plans of the Turkish government for Islamic expansionism across Europe.
“With the rapid rise of the Muslim element,” he pointed out, “Islam tends to replace Christianity as a dominant religion in Europe. Mosques in Cyprus spring up one after another, serving not only as religious institutions but also as political building blocks for the strengthening of Muslim communities in Europe.”
Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Koutras said that the invasion and vandalism of the monuments, culture, and churches is the greatest tragedy in modern Greek history.
“The Cyprus problem,” he said, “is primarily a matter of illegal invasion and occupation of an independent and sovereign member state of the United Nations and of the European Union.”
Ambassador Maria Theofili, Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations, pointed out that the anniversary of the invasion should not be exhausted merely by assessing the tribute to the dead and condemning this crime but that it should be a reason for reflection, reflection to reinforce the historical memory of national self-knowledge.
Ambassador Kornelios Korneliou, Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations, congratulated the associations and federations that keep alive the memories of ’74.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “the time of the occupation is very long, and we need these kinds of events first of all not to forget and secondly, to reflect on what led to the ’74 invasion and where we are today.”