On 31 March 2016, the Executive Coordinator of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) attended the ceremony marking the repatriation of two 15th century icons from the iconostasis of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Jacob (14th century) back to Cyprus, which took place at the icon museum of the Archbishopric of the Church of Cyprus.
These religious treasures were missing since the division of the island in 1974 and were discovered in 2007 in Zurich, in the possession of an art collector.
Icons (i.e holy images) have been in use for religious purposes since the earliest days of the Christian church both for the purpose of teaching and prayer. Considered more than art, icons have an important spiritual role for Orthodox believers. Deeply respected by the faithful they express through colour what the Bible expresses through word.
“Repatriation of such symbolic items looted and sold as a result of conflict can play an important role in healing the wounds of the past,” stated Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Coordinator of the RTCYPP. “These icons, while sacred to some, are part of the common cultural and religious heritage of the whole island and should be respected as such”.
Many religious artifacts including icons and frescoes, precious treasures of Cyprus had fallen victim to the Cyprus conflict and are still missing.