International Day for Monuments and Sites 2019

International Day for Monuments and Sites 2019

Right to Access and Enjoy Cultural including Religious Heritage is a Human Right

On April 18 the world marks the International Day for Monuments and Sites declared by UNESCO in 1983.  Since then, 18 April has been a day to celebrate and promote cultural heritage, and an opportunity to raise awareness about its diversity, its relevance, how vulnerable it can be and what the needs and benefits of its conservation are.

In a place where religion has played a major part in shaping culture for centuries, religious and cultural heritage cannot be isolated from one another. This is especially true for religious monuments and sites.  In Cyprus, there are thousands of religious monuments and sites of different faith traditions, in particular Christian and Muslim, dating back centuries, representing a unique and significant part of Cyprus’ identity.  Many of these monuments and sites are sadly abandoned, destroyed, transformed locked up or inaccessible. Victims of the unresolved Cyprus conflict, they continue  to cause deep pain and mistrust between the  different communities of the island. Meanwhile, courageous mutual efforts of civil society and religious communities to dialogue and work together to clean, restore and allow free access for prayer and worship, has transformative powers on the path towards reconciliation.

Emphasizing the link between cultural heritage, peacebuilding and reconciliation, Office of RTCYPP highlights the significance of “the right to access and enjoy cultural heritage as a human right“: a right which “includes the right of individuals and groups, inter alia, to know, understand, enter, visit, make use of, maintain, exchange and develop cultural heritage, as well as to benefit from the cultural heritage of others.” (Special Rapporteur on Cultural Heritage, 2017)

Respecting religious sites and monuments, in particular those considered sacred by a different community than one’s own, is recognizing each other’s values and identities. Addressing the state of and access to religious monuments and sites is not merely about restoring stones; it is about restoring the human soul.  It is about allowing social interaction, sharing and acknowledging the past, different histories and memories, and caring for each other also through cherishing each other’s religious heritage. On an island characterized by a web of identities, stretching beyond two ethnic communities, understanding and respecting differences is fundamental for peaceful coexistence.

#InternationalDayofMonumentsandSites2019 #IDMS2019 #Faith4Rights #UNESCO

RTCYPP News 2.4.19

OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting 1-2 April 2019, Vienna

The Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) of the OSCE assesses the progress made by participating states in implementing its commitments to combat all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia, hate crimes, anti-semitism, intolerance against Christians, Muslims and members of other religions or belief communities while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience , religion or belief and fostering mutual respect and understanding. Special attention was paid to the different impact such intolerance has on women.

Good practices that show how different actors can prevent and respond to intolerance were presented including the experiences from the RTCYPP, introduced by Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud. Many country representatives including Cyprus, Turkey, Sweden and Finland as well as Slovakia in their respective responses expressed appreciation and praised the work of RTCYPP. The meeting was organized by ODIHR /OSCE under the Slovak Chairmanship.

RTCYPP News 19.3.19

Fruitful High-Level Meeting of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus 19.3.19

Religious Leaders of Cyprus working together under the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, known as RTCYPP for short, reiterate their staunch commitment to their dialogue and cooperation.

The five main religious leaders of Cyprus had a fruitful meeting this morning facilitated by the Office of the RTCYPP, at the Swedish Residence in Nicosia hosted by the Ambassador of Sweden, they observed a one minute silence in memory of all innocent lives lost as a result of indiscriminate terror attacks, in particular the Muslim faithful who perished because of the shootings at the two Mosques in New Zealand on Friday.

The gathering of the Religious Leaders started with a joint site visit to the recently collapsed Church of St James kindly facilitated by UNFICYP where they witnessed with deep sadness the current state of the Church. The Religious Leaders welcomed all efforts to ensure the soonest possible reinforcement and eventual restoration of the historic Churches of St James and St George without further delay.

In front of growing polarization, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, and Anti-Semitism the religious leaders discussed the significant role of religion and faith in conflict resolution, conflict transformation and peacebuilding. In the midst of despair and frustration, the religious leaders agreed to remain focused on positive signs and their joint resolve to build trust, promote understanding and nurture hope. They unanimously agreed to further strengthen their joint efforts and activities for religious freedom, human rights and reconciliation in Cyprus.

 

 

Joint Statement 15.3.19

Religious Leaders of Cyprus Stand United Against the Terror Attacks at two Mosques in New Zealand
15.3.19

The Religious Leaders of the five main faith communities of Cyprus, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite and Latin Catholic, who form the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, are horrified with the tragic news from New Zealand where innocent faithful have been killed and injured as a result of a double terror attack at two Mosques in the city of Christchurch during prayer time.

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus pray first and foremost for the victims of the senseless shootings at Masjid Al Noor and Masjid Linwood and their loved ones. “Committed and working all together for human rights and peace in Cyprus”, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus“categorically condemn this hateful attack against our Muslim brothers and sisters in New Zealand” and reiterate their unanimous joint position stated publicly in 2015, expressing their “united voice against all forms of attacks, terrorism and violence in Cyprus, the region and the world at large.”

“We categorically condemn all forms of violence against innocent civilians. No war, no act of terrorism, atrocities or violent attacks against innocent people can be justified in the name of God Almighty or any religion or humanity. War begets war. Violence begets violence. All people of good will must stand together to respect, support and care for one another. Violence in the name of God is violence against religion itself. As religious leaders, we have a responsibility not only to speak out and work united against all forms of violence but also understand and address diligently the root causes that lead to such conflicts, violence and wars and to always promote and protect peace. Our sacred texts call us not only to combat injustice but also to uplift the poorest in our midst. Where inequality is entrenched, instability and conflict are far more likely to erupt. Inspired by our shared values we embrace the moral imperative to reach out to the most vulnerable among us, uphold human dignity and advocate for human rights. With our different identities we have to be together as one human family, as people of every faith or none. We have a responsibility to preach, act and show that our shared respect for human life and dignity is stronger than evil acts of terror, and perversion of religion. Let us be compassionate and walk humbly with our God on the way of love, mercy, justice and peace.” (Excerpt from Joint Statement of Religious Leaders on 24.11.15)

 

RTCYPP News 14.3.19

Office of RTCYPP at ENORB Conference in Brussels

Executive Director of the Office of RTCYPP Salpy Eskidjian delivered the introductory speech and facilitated a case study on Cyprus and the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process at the conference entitled “Religion/Belief and Conflict Resolution - Peacebuilding in an Age of Rage”, organized by the European Network on Religion and Belief (ENORB) in Brussels on 12 March, 2019. The conference brought together members of various faith communities, who together learned about and discussed the role of religion and belief in peace building.

Office of RTCYPP extends its gratitude to the organizers, participants and fellow speakers for a fruitful and inspiring conference, which gave way to new ideas, partnerships and valuable knowledge.

RTCYPP News 7.3.19

Photo Exhibitions: Swedish Dads and Cypriot Dads

On 6 March, RTCYPP attended the inauguration of the dual photo exhibition, “Swedish Dads” and “Cypriot Dads”, honoring equal parenting, organized by the Embassy Of Sweden in Nicosia.

The representatives of the RTCYPP warmly congratulated Ambassador Olsson Vrang of Sweden for this unprecedented initiative which they welcomed and greatly appreciated.

“It was a great opportunity to accompany a Greek Orthodox and Maronite Catholic priests and Turkish Cypriot Muslim Imams to view the exhibition together and listen to their own experiences of family and their appreciation of shared parenthood. “ says Salpy Eskidjian, Director of the Office of RTCYPP.

The two parallel exhibitions about modern fatherhood were Inaugurated by H.E. The Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides and H.E. The Ambassador of Sweden, Mrs. Anna Olsson Vrang. The exhibitions will be open for the public from today until 22 March, Tuesday- Sunday 09.30-17.00 at Centre of Visual Arts and Research -CVAR.

RTCYPP News 4.3.19

Welcome meeting with Force Commander Major General Cheryl Pearce

 

Ambassador Olsson Vrang and Office of RTCYPP had a courtesy meeting with UNFICYP Force Commander Major General Cheryl Pearce at the UN headquarters to welcome her to Cyprus. Office of RTCYPP is thankful to the Major General for sharing her competence, wisdom and inspiring leadership.

RTCYPP News 17.2.19

Visit to the Church of Saint James

The representative of Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus visits the Church of St James to review the recent destruction of the historic monument in the Buffer Zone followed by a visit to the Church of St George in the same vicinity.
The visit was kindly facilitated by UNFICYP at the request of the Embassy of Sweden in Cyprus as the Auspices of the RTCYPP. Ambassador Of Sweden accompanied the Archbishop’s representative together with the Director of UNFICYP civil affairs and the Executive Director of the Office of RTCYPP.
The Religious Leaders of Cyprus express their sincere appreciation to UNFICYP and the Embassy Of Sweden for their efforts to facilitate this visit for the Archdiocese and Synodical Committee on Monuments of the Church of Cyprus.

 

RTCYPP News 13.2.19

Feast of Saint Maroun

On the occasion of St Maroun’s feast, Ambassador Of Sweden receives a gift of gratitude from the community of St Charbel on behalf of H.E Archbishop Soueif who expressed the appreciation of the Maronite Church of Cyprus to Ambassador Olsson Vrang of Sweden for her auspices to the RTCYPP and the Swedish governments continued support to the dialogue and joint efforts of the religious leaders of Cyprus for justice, peace and reconciliation.

 

Joint Statement 14.02.2019

Joint Statement of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus -14 February 2019
Historic Church of Saint James in the Buffer Zone

We, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus, received the news of the collapse of part of the St. James Church with deep pain, profoundly disappointed, for our continuous joint efforts since 2014 did not avail this tragedy. We, welcome the news that immediate attention has taken place by UNFICYP, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage together with the Nicosia Master Plan. We reiterate the principle that the rightful owners of all religious monuments in Cyprus should be directly involved and consulted and appreciate the dialogue with the United Nations in this regard.

With faith in God, we renew our joint plea since 2014 for the urgent need to appropriately reinforce and restore not only the historic monument of St James but also St George, both found in the green line of the Buffer Zone. The significance of a place of worship reaches far beyond the stones it is built of and its destruction disrespects our shared religious and cultural heritage.
As leaders of the five main religious communities of Cyprus, we stand together as brothers committed to ensure that all sacred places for our faithful, all places of worship that are part of Cyprus religious and cultural heritage are respected as such, cared for, protected and restored.

We are grateful for the full support of the Swedish Embassy as the auspices of the dialogue of the religious leaders for peace, known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP), for their sincere accompaniment of our cooperation and joint efforts for religious freedom.

In front of this tragedy, we ask once again for the full cooperation of all those involved and pray that the efforts of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, that has agreed to take over the responsibility of these two Byzantine monuments since March 2017, are renewed with urgency with the support of all stakeholders including the rightful owner.

We hope that the upcoming meeting of the two political leaders on 26 February will provide an opportunity for them to discuss and resolve all obstacles to reinforce and restore both these historic monuments. Expressing our hope for a constructive and proactive way forward in protecting the historic monuments in the Buffer Zone, we pray to be spared from witnessing another place of worship in Cyprus fall to ruins.

H.B. Chrysostomos II
Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus

H.E. Dr Talip Atalay
Mufti of Cyprus

H.E. Yousef Soueif
Archbishop of the Maronite Church of Cyprus

H.E. Khoren Doghramadjian
Archbishop of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of Cyprus

Rev. Father Jerzy Kraj
Latin Patriarchal Vicar

Current state of the Church of St James

Church of St James prior to 8 February, 2019

Church of St George