Estimated around 5000 strong, only 140 now live in the North. Traditionally farmers in the North, since displacement, many have only been able to find employment as unskilled labour in the South.
There has been a Maronite community in Cyprus since at least the twelfth century. ‘Eastern Catholics’, followers of St Maron, a monk of the fourth and fifth centuries, Maronites established themselves first in Lesser Syria and Lebanon. In the settlement of Cyprus, the constitutional structures effectively ignored any separate claims of Maronites, who were required to opt for either the Greek or the Turkish community. Maronites opted for the Greek community. But their participation in the Republic of Cyprus was limited to a combination of representation and consultation that approaches but did not exhaust the substance of the right to participate set out in the UN Declaration on Minorities and other international instruments. Most Maronites live in the south; only around 140 live in the Turkish-controlled north.
Representatives of the Maronite community told MRG in December 2007, that 80% of Maronites are married with Greek Cypriot and are in danger of losing their distinct language and cultural heritage.
Out of the 4 villages in Northern Cyprus, 2 are occupied by Turkish army and many houses have been destroyed. 2 villages are accessible and Maronites are allowed to use their houses, but parents cannot pass on the property to their children, unless the heirs are Turkish Cypriot citizens. Thus, some of them are applying for Northern Cypriot nationality.
Maronites are considering legal action to have the constitution modified in order to recognise them as national (not religious) minorities. Other issues that they lobbying on:
- Right to vote in parliament decision for minority representatives.
- Actual implementation of the EU framework convention on national minorities.
- Creation of a government commissioner on National Minorities as main interlocutor with them.
- Amendment of school curricula to include a better understanding of the contribution of minorities to Cypriot history.
Updated June 2015