RTCYPP News 27.5.19

Regional Conference on Contemporary Issues of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), Yerevan  

Director of the Office of the RTCYPP was one of the International experts invited to address the 2019 Regional Conference on Contemporary Issues of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) held by The Eurasia Partnership Foundation in Yerevan on May 24. 

The conference provided a platform for key stakeholders from the Caucasus to discuss the situation and developments of FoRB from different perspectives. Insightful discussions were held during the conference within the sessions on Global Challenges in the field of FoRB, Interreligious dialogue as a tool for conflict transformation, issues of Education and conflicting rights. 

The Conference was attended by international experts on FoRB from the UN and the OSCE, representatives of international organizations, members of the diplomatic corps, religious leaders and groups, government representatives and civil society members from both countries. 

Prime Minister of Armenia was present at the opening and addressed the conference alongside the Head of the UN Representation, the Dutch Ambassador and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom Of Religion or Belief (via video link). 
The conference was supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Armenia and Georgia.


RTCYPP News 9.5.19

Iftar at Hala Sultan Tekke

On the evening of 8 May, participants from the RTCYPP Faith for Rights Network and RTCYPP Language Classes joined the Office of RTCYPP for a visit to Hala Sultan Tekke to participate in an Iftar (the meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan) and express best wishes for a peaceful and blessed Ramadan which started a few days ago.

The fast, lasting from dawn to sunset, was broken with dates and juice when the sun set over the beautiful Salt Lake. The Imam of Hala Sultan Tekke warmly welcomed all present and everyone shared a delicious meal together. Empathy for the less fortunate, generosity and charity are some of the values encouraged during the Ramadan period. It is customary for mosques to enact this by providing food and a social space every night after sunset.

Getting to know one another , sharing the respective traditions with each other are part of the activities supported by the religious leaders of Cyprus and coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP in order to nurture respect and build trust among the different faith communities in the island.

“We are grateful for the welcome at Hala Sultan Tekke and to everyone in the visiting group for their participation as well as the deep respect shown for each other.” said Salpy Eskidjian, director of the Office of RTCYPP. “Learning, understanding and respecting one another’s traditions is a fundamental element for peaceful coexistence and reconciliation.”

The evening was documented by a Canadian film crew exploring the role of religion among other aspects of Cypriot society.

#KnowYourNeighbour #RespectOneAnother #Faith4Rights

RTCYPP News 2.5.19

Statement on #Faith4Rights at Global Summit on Religion, Peace and Security

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet addressed the role of religious leaders and communities in her statement on Faith for Rights at the Global Summit on Religion, Peace and Security on 29 April, 2019.

“The ‘Faith for Rights’ framework includes a commitment not to tolerate exclusionary interpretations, which instrumentalize religions, beliefs or their followers for electoral purposes or political gains… The 18 commitments [of the Faith for Rights initiativehave been translated into Greek and Turkish in the context of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, to be used in human rights education projects across the island.”

Read the full statement here: https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24531&LangID=E

Or watch the video via this link: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FaithForRights.aspx

RTCYPP News 21.4.19

Mufti of Cyprus , Professor Dr Atalay strongly condemns the terror attacks in Sri Lanka targeted at Christians on Easter Sunday

Subject​: Condemnation Message regarding terror attacks against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka (translated from Turkish)

On my behalf and my community, I strongly condemn terror acts in Sri Lanka on Sunday that targeted Christians in the churches performing their worship and people in the hotels, resulting in the death of more than 200 people and the injury of hundreds of others. These attacks deeply saddened us.

Regardless of its religion, language, race, geography, those who commit these assassinations are the murderers of the whole humanity according to our belief that equates the massacre of an innocent with the massacre of whole world. It is crystal clear that terror acts and the terrorists -we just witnessed last month in New Zealand and today in Sri Lanka, and in the past with many other painful examples- serve to the same dirty goals in themselves although they have different sides, colours in appearance. These murderers aim to destroy trust and hope that are core needs and natural human traits. To achieve this goal, they intend out of the blue the lives of innocent people and their places of worship, which are basically the safest places. With the violence they use, they are attempting to dominate the world with fear, hate and hopeless.

It is of utmost importance for the future of the humanity to eradicate the resources by which these terrorists are fed. Although their beliefs, nations and countries are different from each other, their common traits are basically the same. For that purpose, all officials in all countries of the world should take the same side against similar violence acts and hate speech regardless of the target audience and considering the responsibility of being an individual. In the name of the humanity, it is an urgent matter that following the New Zealand massacre common solidarity, that increases our hopes and heals the wounds in the hearts to a certain extent, further expands and takes root as a universal reflex against similar terror acts in all corners of the world by going beyond a verbal position that merely condemns terror and its supporters. If we don’t stand against terror and approaches that support it, if we don’t fight against them, we would have a share in the massacre and in the suffering of each innocent person. If we opt for remaining silent, we would be a part of this bigger sin and we would therefore become accountable vis-à-vis God.

I once again condemn this nefarious terror incident that resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of innocent people in Sri Lanka, and offer condolence to the relatives of those who lost their lives during the attack as well as to all Sri Lanka people on my behalf and my community, and wish quick recovery for those who were injured.

Professor Dr Talip Atalay
Mufti of Cyprus

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

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.