There are certain types of education you would rather not have; I find myself in possession of such knowledge. Able to write this blog article without a great deal of research. If you are considering the move to North Cyprus for retirement, this is a topic you will have to explore at some point: What happens with a Christian dies in a Muslim country?
Personal views on religion are not of interest: If you are from the West, you are Christian. To someone from Europe or North America, these differences are big and not easily dismissed. Here, agnostic, Orthodox, and Baptist are all the same. Look at it this way: many Westerners will look at Sunnis and Shia as, well, kinda’ the same. The differences may appear to be muted, unless you are Shia.
A friend of mine from the UK recently passed away and it was something of an education for everyone in our little circle of friends. The process is familiar with some real differences. By the way, in researching this article, I found an excellent article on funerals in North Cyprus on Cyprus Scene.
First, I now have a new-found respect for the İskele Belediye (Iskele Municipality); there did several things that I thought were kind and thoughtful. To appreciate these gestures of the part of the local Government, perhaps a quick overview of standard practices is warranted.
When someone of the Muslim faith dies, the burial takes place as soon as possible, which is normally within 24 hours. Sometimes even on the same day. The deceased is placed in a seven meter, unbleached cotton shroud with a rope tied around the neck and feet, then placed in a simple, closed casket called a tabut. The deceased is carried from his home to the cemetery by four men at a time. These men switch-off carrying duties and a small crowd walks with the casket to the graveyard. Normally, the deceased may buried without the casket. They are placed in a grave with their head pointed towards Mecca. No photos or recording s should be made and there is no discussion during the service. Cremation is forbidden.
The Belediye has created a separate cemetery in town for Christians. They invited an Orthodox Priest up from the South to consecrate the ground. The graveyard is called the British Cemetery, although any Christian (Westerner) may be buried there.
Recently, a friend died in a hospital about an hour away and upon discovering his passing, the Belediye dispatched a truck with a coffin (without request by the Widow) to the hospital. They also sent a crew to the cemetery to dig a grave. Altho I guess she may be billed later, this gesture just struck me as kind.
The Mayor also made it known that if we would pass our wishes along, the Belediye would make and pay for requested improvements to the little Cemetery. Another kind and thoughtful gesture.
A few days ago three of us, the third being the Widow, met the architect at the graveyard so he can create drawings of what is requested.
We asked for:
- An English Cemetery sign
- A paved road going up to the site
- An paved area big enough to turn a truck around
- Water lines to the site (we will plant shade trees but they require water at first)
- And a path through the center of the site (sidewalks are made of paving bricks here)
As of this writing, the drawings are being made so that crews know what is requested. Elsewhere, I have referred to the Turkish Cypriots is always kind, here is yet another example.