The Religious Leaders of Cyprus came together for a thanksgiving reception in honour of special friends of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP) who are scheduled to leave Cyprus this summer; Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Chief of Mission Lisa M. Buttenheim, H.E. the Ambassador of Finland Anu Saarela, UNFICYP Force Commander Major General Kristin Lund, and H.E. the Ambassador of Sweden Klas Gierow.
“We are here to celebrate, to acknowledge, to recognize, to give thanks, to pledge. Despite setbacks or disappointments, we have hope. Dialogue and cooperation in Cyprus will persevere as the religious leaders know too well that a united witness for peace, a united voice for human rights is better than the success or failure of one alone” Said Salpy Eskidjian, the Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP, who hosted the event on May 31, 2016 in the Buffer Zone in Nicosia.
“Religion can be used to divide people, here thanks to the Religious Track, it is used to unite” said Mr. Espen Barth Eide in his address. “The religious leaders bringing the faith communities together inspire the political leaders.” He praised the religious track as “truly inspiring” and he called on all Cypriots “to take a leap of faith for peace.”
In his address on behalf of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, H.E Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia, expressed feelings of joy and relief; “Personally I am a witness of the fruits of the religious leaders’ dialogue since 2009. Despite the obstacles or negativities, through this work I have the right to visit my churches, pray and meet not only with Greek Cypriots but also Turkish Cypriots. We have seen first hand that we can live together and people are ready for a solution”
Mufti of Cyprus, H.E. Dr. Atalay in thanking the honoured guests for all their support and good work for peace in Cyprus expressed his sadness for their departure. He reiterated that as religious leaders’ “From the beginning we have been very supportive of free access to places of worship. In principle this is part of our religion, religious monuments should always be respected. We all support religious freedom. Our job is not to do politics but to create and build hope in the hearts of people so that our hearts, tongues and actions would be identical”. All the religious leaders warmly thanked the Swedish government and the four guests of honour for their tireless efforts for Cyprus and their support to the Religious Track. In the closing message, H.E Archbishop Y. Souief of the Maronite Church expressed his commitment that the religious leaders of Cyprus will continue to work together “to build a culture of justice, a culture of peace, a culture of reconciliation, a culture of love not only in Cyprus but also in the region and become a beacon of hope everywhere”.
The guests of honour gave heartening messages of support and encouragement, reiterating that the efforts of the religious track give them hope as they leave the island. They all expressed their wish that the religious leaders continue their peacebuilding efforts and strive together for a reunited Cyprus where all Cypriots can live together in peace and the rights of all are respected.
Rev Jerzy Kraj, Latin Patriarchal Vicar and Representative of the Apostolic Nunciature in Cyprus ended the thanksgiving reception with a prayer of St Francis;
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”