18 April 2020, International Day for Monuments and Sites: Shared Culture, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility

Communiqué on the Occasion of the International Day for Monuments and Sites

 “Shared Culture, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility”

 18 April 2020


On April 18 the world marks the International Day for Monuments and Sites declared by UNESCO in 1983, also known as World Heritage Day.  Since then, April 18 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.

This year’s theme “ Shared Culture, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility” is particularly relevant for Cyprus where 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’ shared identity, shared culture and shared heritage.

Throughout history religious monuments were built as sacred places of prayer and worship and stood side by side in many villages and towns in Cyprus, sharing the same space. Apart from their religious significance as places of worship, these sacred monuments and sites encouraged social interaction, shared traditions, different histories and memories. They nurtured shared community, which cared for each other and respected each other’s religious heritage.

For the last ten years, the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process Under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP), as the platform of communication and cooperation between the religious leaders of Cyprus, has been advocating and calling for religious sites and monuments to be respected, in particular those considered sacred by a different community than one’s own, not only as a human right but also as a way to recognize each other’s values and identities.

Religious communities play a significant role in the creation, maintenance, and continuous shaping of sacred places and have a custodial role in caring for these as living heritage.  They preserve the values of religious and sacred places, which are part of the foundation of different cultures.

Collectively the religious and sacred monuments as well as properties capture a range of cultural and natural diversity, each demonstrating the spirit of a particular space. Understanding the nature and significance of religious and sacred heritage, having the capacity to protect its authenticity and integrity, including its particular spiritual significance, and sharing the knowledge of its common history are key foundations to build mutual respect and foster communication and cooperation between communities.

The right to access and enjoy cultural heritage including religious and sacred heritage is 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)

The right to protect religious heritage especially when a religious community is denied free access to and stripped away from its custodianship, represents a special challenge. In this regard there is a need to raise awareness of the importance of dialogue, collaboration and mutual understanding between religious communities and all other stakeholders who must work together to preserve the significance of cultural, religious and natural heritage monuments and sites associated with the sacred.

Safeguarding religious heritage, which has universal value for future generations requires, shared knowledge, shared platform for action and shared responsibility among all communities involved in the preservation of our common and shared heritage.

With the ongoing global crisis created by the outbreak of COVID19 preventing us to gather collectively to mark this occasion, Office of the RTCYPP invites everyone who can, to share a photo and /or a story of a religious monument or sacred site that is important to them as we try to weave together memories of a shared heritage.

Send your story or photo to sacredsites@religioustrack.com

Note to Readers: “Religious property” is any form of property with religious or spiritual associations: churches, mosques, monasteries, shrines, sanctuaries, synagogues, temples, sacred landscapes, sacred groves, cemeteries, etc…” The term “sacred site” embraces areas of special significance to people and communities. According to UNESCO sacred sites “are indeed the oldest protected areas of the planet” and “ have vital importance for safeguarding cultural and biological diversity for present and future generations.

2020 Easter Message from the Mufti of Cyprus

2020 Easter Message from the Mufti of Cyprus

On the occasion of Easter, I extend my heartfelt sincerest greetings and well wishes to all Christians!

We congratulate the Christian Religious Leaders of Cyprus and their respective communities as well as all Christians around the world in the spirit of the culture of coexistence and peace, deep rooted in our religious teachings.

We continue to uphold our mutual commitment to religious freedom and reiterate our conviction that everyone should freely be able to practice his/her religion wherever they are.

Easter as well as the upcoming Holy Month of Ramadan this year will be celebrated with particular challenges. As believers we should communicate and practice responsibility, compassion and most important of all, hope. Following our religious obligation, we are called to be merciful and compassionate as if we are one; to do good, to share and to serve each other irrespective of nationality, race and faith.

We understand the distress of Christians in seeing their Churches closed during their Holy Week, especially on the most important of Christian feasts. We, Muslims know first hand how important congregational worship is and together with all believers we long for the comfort and power a place of worship offers to our faithful. In this regard, we share the distress felt by Christians.

We all take comfort in knowing that the physical space of a place of worship cannot limit our celebrations and venerations. There is no obstacle between the worshipper and Allah. It is quoted in Holy Quran … “and who so saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind”…

By staying away from one another, by keeping each other safe during this pandemic we are following the full commandment of loving and caring for each other and our neighbours.

We continue to pray fervently each one of us alone with the hope that we will be together soon in our respective places of worship.

During this crisis, it is our religious obligation to pray for and help the most vulnerable among us and to serve humanity without any discrimination, upholding the spirit of sacrifice, service and generosity for all, especially homeless people and stray animals without food and shelter.

We stand in prayer with everyone, strengthened in our faith that we will overcome this crisis and life will return to normal for all as soon as possible and once again we will be able to gather in our places of worship freely and greet one another in the name of Allah, the most Gracious and the Most Merciful.

May Your Feast Be Blessed!


Professor Dr Talip Atalay

Mufti of Cyprus

Press Release 20.3.2020

Religious Leaders of Cyprus Join their Voices and Prayers Against the Coronavirus Pandemic


Faced with such trials as the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), when there is global fear and confusion, the Religious Leaders of the main faith communities of Cyprus H.B Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus, H.E Talip Atalay, Mufti of Cyprus, H.E Archbishop Khoren of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of Cyprus, H.E Archbishop Youssef Soueif of the Maronite Church of Cyprus and Reverend Father Jerzy Kraj, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Cyprus, who form the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) join their voices and prayers to the Almighty to help the world overcome this crisis, protect everyone and heal the sick.

During this unprecedented period, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus call everyone to pray fervently, act compassionately and remain in solidarity with each other especially with the most vulnerable among us.

Special prayers are called for all who have been afflicted or recovering from this illness and everyone who is caring for the sick so that God may grant them the grace of His healing. In particular, they call for prayers for the sick, the victims who passed away due to this virus and uplift all doctors, nurses, medical, paramedical personnel and all caregivers who are struggling daily to confront the consequences of this virus.

They call on all other religious and faith community leaders in Cyprus and all sisters and brothers of faith to join them in prayer and action to fight this pandemic together. They jointly urge all faith communities to strictly follow the advice and directives issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and state health authorities, remain responsible and hopeful without succumbing to fear and panic.

They call on their faithful to pay very serious attention to the separate detailed directives and measures announced by each one of them and stay updated. They invite everyone to stay correctly informed and face this crisis with faith, caution, wisdom and collective responsibility so as to help curb its spread.

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus assure everyone that they will continue to pray for everyone and invite their respective faith communities to join them in prayer to strengthen their faith in God the Almighty during this difficult time.

RTCYPP News 06.03.20

On 6 March, women and men came together for a one-hour strike in the Buffer Zone, as a protest against gender inequality in Cyprus, under the banner “The Time is Now” for human rights & equality.
As part of the Home for Cooperation family, the Office of RTCYPP joined the 1-hour strike protesting against women’s inequality in Cyprus, violence against women and girls, gender stereotypes and sexism and called for gender equality in power, decision-making and the workplace as well as legal reform to end inequality and discrimination for all women in Cyprus.

RTCYPP News 25.02.20

Heartwarming visit to Köprülü Mosque and local Turkish Cypriot community members of Limassol with Mufti of Cyprus at the invitation of the head of the local association.
Since the intervention of the Office of RTCYPP four years ago, the Köprülü Mosque in the Ayios Antonios neighbourhood in Limassol is one of the positive examples of good and respectful cooperation of all stakeholders involved, including the current custodian, the local community association and the Muftiate Of Cyprus, advancing religious freedom. Weekly prayers take place with a visiting Imam authorised by the Mufti of Cyprus, while members of the local community association undertake the daily care of the mosque under the authorisation of the Muftiate as well as the cooperation of the current custodian.

RTCYPP News 21.02.20

Executive Director of the Office of the Religious Track welcomed Norway’s foreign minister, Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide to the Office of RTCYPP and shared some highlights, achievements and challenges of the RTCYPP during the minister’s visit to the Home for Cooperation and a delicious lunch at the Home Cafe.

RTCYPP News: February 2020

RTCYPP News: February 2020

Religious Leaders of Cyprus meet with the Representative of UNHCR Cyprus and discuss the status of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants

During their first RTCYPP High Level Meeting of the year, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus welcomed a detailed briefing by Ms Katja Saha, Representative of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) – Cyprus and listened to the current challenges.

Together with the UNHCR Representative, the religious leaders discussed the situation of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Cyprus.  They listened to the challenges faced and reflected together on the role of religious leaders to meet the spiritual and religious needs of the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; to raise awareness about the plight of refugees, and ensure that they are welcomed by members of the respective faith communities by educating against xenophobia and assist in their integration into society.

“Welcoming the stranger, honoring the dignity of every person regardless of their faith and treating them with respect are values common to major religions and religious traditions. Religious leaders in Cyprus can play an important role in promoting acceptance and respect and empowering refugees to become part of an inclusive society” stated Ms Saha.

Religious Leaders thanked UNHCR Cyprus for all its efforts for the uprooted and reiterated their joint commitment to advocate for inclusion, understanding and support for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers as they had jointly stated on World Refugee Day 2018

The High Level meeting and briefing session were hosted by Ambassador Hagelberg and moderated by Sweden’s Special Envoy on Religion, Peace-building & Conflict, Peter Weiderud.  It took place at the Swedish Residence in Nicosia and was organized and facilitated by the Office of RTCYPP.

Joint Communique by the Religious Leaders of Cyprus on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the RTCYPP

Joint Communique by the Religious Leaders of Cyprus on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the RTCYPP

On 14 February 2020, the five Religious Leaders of Cyprus came together and adopted the Joint Communique on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden. The Religious Leaders commit themselves to continue to build a culture of peace and trust, always defending and promoting human dignity and reiterate their conviction to work together to uphold and advance the fundamental freedom of religion for all.

"Ten years ago, after decades of separation, we, the religious leaders of Cyprus, came together for the first time in the history of Cyprus.  We started to listen to one another, to work together and to support each other to improve the situation for freedom of religion or belief in Cyprus and together contribute to healing and reconciliation of our communities.

We are convinced that if we want to go far, we need to walk the long road ahead of us together as people of faith and as religious leaders.

We give thanks to the Government of Sweden for its steadfast support to the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) and the Embassy of Sweden in Cyprus for its Auspices.

We reiterate our strong conviction to continue to work together to uphold and advance the fundamental freedom of religion for all. We know full well that only with real courage we will be able to stay together to seek truth, purify memories and restore basic human rights. In particular we will continue to advocate and work together for our right to access, administer, protect and restore our own religious monuments in Cyprus and stand up for the right to worship, which has been denied, controlled or violated for far too long.

With God’s grace and blessing we will continue to support each other and stand united to contribute to building trust between our communities, restore broken relationships, heal the wounds of the past and sow the seeds of reconciliation in Cyprus.

To mark the tenth anniversary of our peacebuilding efforts, we call on:

All Cypriots to join us in our efforts to protect the religious heritage of Cyprus and advance freedom of religion for all;

The political leadership of Cyprus to have the courage to increase their support to our unprecedented joint gesture for peace, as well as our common request to ensure unhindered freedom of worship, religion and belief in Cyprus; and

The international community to support our joint messages for human rights and continue to acknowledge the role of the religious leaders of Cyprus in peacebuilding.

We, the Religious Leaders will continue to pray for Cyprus and for each other. We invite our respective communities to join us in prayer to strengthen our faith in God the Almighty and commit ourselves to building a culture of peace and trust, always defending and promoting human dignity."

RTCYPP News 14.02.20

On 14 February 2020, the religious leaders of the main faith communities of Cyprus, 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 came together to visit His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II.

The religious leaders, who have been praying for His Beatitude’s health, wished him a speedy recovery from his recent operation and reiterated their commitment to stand together and support each other.

During this meeting they adopted the Joint Communique on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Religious Track and committed themselves to continue to work towards building a culture of peace and trust, always defending and promoting human dignity. Furthermore, they reiterated their conviction to work together to uphold and advance the fundamental freedom of religion for all.

Details of activities to mark the 10th Anniversary will be announced and coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP.


RTCYPP News 04.02.20

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Nelson Mandela

Office of RTCYPP organised study visits in the old town of divided Nicosia for priests, Imams & lay leaders from faith communities of Cyprus, learning each other’s language. During the study trip clerics learning Turkish, visited the northern part of Nicosia while the ones learning Greek visited the southern part, practising what they have learnt in class with the respective local community. Their outreach set a unique example of bridge building while breaking stereotypes and strengthening friendships.
Led by their teachers the students chose to practise their skills together in real-life settings. The Greek class group walked around the heart of the city on the thoroughfare 19th Century Ermou Street, completing small missions and tasks while practising giving directions, ordering refreshments and listening to the stories of shopkeepers and restaurant owners. The promenade took the group around the old town, passing through familiar neighbourhoods and discovering new corners including the traditional cafés of Ledra Street.
The Turkish class group went on an excursion along with their teacher to the old town around the Selimye Quarter where they walked through streets around the neighbourhood and visited the historic closed municipal market: “Bandabulya” and the 16th Century Ottoman Great Inn- Buyuk Khan, where the students ordered refreshments in Turkish and had an opportunity to talk to local merchants, shopkeepers and locals.
RTCYPP has been organising Greek and Turkish language courses for priests, imams and lay leaders in the faith communities of Cyprus since 2017 in an effort to build bridges between the faith communities of the island. The Language Classes are endorsed by the religious leaders of Cyprus who have been in dialogue and working together for the last ten years, under Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden.