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

RTCYPP News: 29.1.19

Farewell to H.E. Ambassador Doherty

Ambassador Olsson Vrang of Sweden and RTCYPP Executive Director Eskidijan Weiderud bid farewell to departing US Ambassador Doherty, a strong supporter of the work of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process. The Office of RTCYPP wishes Ambassador Doherty all the best in her future endeavors.


RTCYPP News 14.1.2019

Ambassador of Sweden Anna Olsson Vrang and Director of the Office of RTCYPP Salpy Eskidjian met with H.E. Archbishop Soueif of the Maronite Church Of Cyprus. The excellent meeting discussed, among others, the current role of the religious leaders of Cyprus and the Office of RTCYPP for peace and reconciliation.

Photo credit: Ranya Najjar

RTCYPP News 14.12.2018

RTCYPP/ODIHR 2-day Training on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Press release by OSCE/ODIHR https://www.osce.org/odihr/406541

Twenty-three leaders and representatives of religious communities in Cyprus came together for a training event on freedom of religion or belief in Nicosia, on 11 and 12 December 2018. The event was organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in co-operation with the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP).

The training event, held in the Home for Cooperation in the United Nations Buffer Zone, focused on the nature and scope of the right to freedom of religion or belief as set out in international standards and OSCE commitments. The participants (13 men and 10 women) explored the interrelationship between the freedom of religion or belief and the freedom of expression, and the role of religious leaders and actors in creating and sustaining a culture of respect for everyone's freedom of religion or belief and other human rights.
"It is very encouraging to see the commitment of these religious leaders in Cyprus to standing up for the rights of all religious and belief communities on the island," said Kishan Manocha, ODIHR Senior Adviser on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
"Freedom of religion or belief is one of the victims of the Cyprus conflict," said Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Director of the Office of the RTCYPP. "We cannot build lasting peace without ensuring the right of everyone to freely practice their religion or belief. We therefore warmly welcome the opportunity to work with ODIHR to provide training on this very important human right to the leaders and members of the religious communities in Cyprus."

RTCYPP News 25.11.2018

Elimination of Violence against Women – 16 Days of Activism

The Office of RTCYPP launches today the social media campaign 16 Days of Activism for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. During the 16 days between the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November and International Human Rights Day 10 December, a photo series is posted on Facebook and Twitter depicting members of Cyprus’ faith communities united with messages to combat violence against women and girls. The Religious Leaders’ historic statement of 2017 condemning violence against women is brought back into focus, as it is as relevant today as on the day it was signed.

Faith communities, international organizations and local initiatives gather during these days under the overarching umbrellas of #16Days, #OrangeTheWorld, #HearMeToo and #Faith4Rights. The RTCYPP campaign will join these hashtags as part of a world-wide movement on social media and the RTCYPP website.

The Office calls on all to join the campaign and be part of the change during these 16 days as well as all other days. As long as violence against women and girls persists, the world cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace. Women’s rights are human rights.

RTCYPP News 20.6.18

12th Special Pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke on the Occasion of Ramazan Bayram

On the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr 2018 a special pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke took place on Wednesday, 20 June where 860 faithful of Turkish origin were granted access to attend Bayram prayers at the most well known and revered mosque in Cyprus. The pilgrimage was the 12th since the unprecedented agreement between the religious leaders of Cyprus, namely H.B. Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus and the Mufti of Cyprus H.E. Dr Talip Atalay reached in 2014 within the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP).

Representatives of the religious leaders from the Church of Cyprus, the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the Maronite Church of Cyprus and the Latin Patriarchal Vicar were present at Hala Sultan Tekke to bring fraternal greetings on the occasion of Ramazan Bayram.

Witnessing the special pilgrimage was the Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Mrs. Anna Olsson Vrang under whose auspices the Religious Track is facilitated. The Ambassador of Sweden expressed her congratulations to the Mufti and all Muslims living in Cyprus for this auspicious occasion and welcomed the continued close cooperation and warm relations of all the religious leaders of Cyprus. “Upholding religious freedom together, continuing your support for each other, working together as one shows leadership and courage in a divided country. Your actions are strong witnesses for hope and inspirations for others to follow,“ stated Ambassador Olsson Vrang in greeting the religious leaders of Cyprus.

Welcomed by the Mufti of Cyprus, the Christian religious leaders voiced messages of peace and solidarity to all Muslims living in Cyprus and their commitment for continued cooperation and dialogue. Sensing the pilgrims’ excitement and appreciation for the special pilgrimage, the religious leaders expressed their own happiness for having had the opportunity to contribute to the day’s events and ongoing efforts that strengthen religious freedom across the entire island.

The three annual special pilgrimages for Ramazan Bayram/Eid al-Fitr, Qurban Bayram/Eid al-Adha and Mevlid/Mawlid al-Nabi are facilitated within the framework of the Religious Track with the support of H.B. Archbishop Chrysostomos II and all other Christian religious leaders of Cyprus. They are organised by the Muftiate of Cyprus and coordinated by the Office of RTCTYPP with the full cooperation of the state authorities, UNFICYP and UN Police. The special pilgrimage of today had the approval of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides.


Ramazan Bayram or Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that takes place annually.  Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, to Prophet Muhammad according to Islamic belief. For 30 days, followers of Islam pray, fast and refrain from bad behaviour and impure thoughts. Fasting and focusing on prayer and charity during Ramadan is meant to purify the body and spirit and bring the faithful closer to God; fasting during the month is also one of the five pillars of Islam.

RTCYPP News 11.6.18

Unwavering Gestures of Respect Between Religious Leaders at the Feast of Apostle Barnabas of Cyprus

On 11 June 2018, Reverend Father Ioannis Ioannou of Saint Barnabas and Greek Orthodox pilgrims taking part in the Feast of Apostle Barnabas were joined by Imam Fuat Tosun representing the Mufti of Cyprus. Saint Barnabas is the founding Apostle of the Church of Cyprus. Hundreds of Greek Orthodox Christian faithful commemorated the day at the Monastery and Cathedral of Saint Barnabas near Salamis, Famagusta.

Showing her appreciation to the joint efforts of the religious leaders of Cyprus and their commitment to dialogue, H.E Ambassador of Sweden Ms. Anna Olsson Vrang joined the liturgy to witness the good will gesture of the religious leaders and celebrate the occasion. As the peacebuilding initiative of the religious leaders of Cyprus, known as the RTCYPP functions under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, her presence was warmly welcomed and greatly appreciated by all parties.

The celebration began with a divine liturgy in the main Cathedral and culminated with prayers at the site of the tomb of Apostle Barnabas. Imam Tosun and the rest of the RTCYPP delegation were received with enthusiasm by the clerics of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

“This is the kind of leadership we want”, exclaimed one of the older pilgrims when greeting the religious leaders, “The presence of the Mufti’s representative fills our hearts with hope that our faith unites us even if we are different and we care for each other’s rights”.

In congratulating the Church of Cyprus on this important feast, Imam Tosun expressed the commitment of the Muftiate of Cyprus to religious freedom, dialogue and peace. “I bring you this painting of a door which for me symbolizes an opening in the walls that separate us, a light in the darkness” said Fuat Tosun, when presenting his gift to Father Ioannis after the liturgy. “If we can respect each other and all that is precious to each one of us we can coexist with one another. The RTCYPP for us is the hope that can break the ‘doors’ that keep us apart and build bridges instead.”

Father Ioannou expressed his sincere thanks to Imam Tosun for being there despite the fact that it is Ramadan.  “Let us be the peace that comes from Apostle Barnabas who is love”, said Father Ioannou “For us we have a mandate to love everyone and build bridges. It’s an obligation to dialogue and work together as religious leaders. We greatly appreciate your presence and the support extended by the Mufti and all Imams.”

Together Father Ioannis and Imam Fuat thanked the Swedish Ambassador for honoring them with her presence and for Sweden’s unwavering support to the Office of RTCYPP and the peacebuilding efforts of the faith communities in Cyprus. They both affirmed to continue to build bridges of communication, cooperation to restore religious freedom all over the island and nurture reconciliation.

The goodwill gestures and meetings of the religious leadership of Cyprus at Christian and Muslim places of worship is a result of agreements within the framework of the Religious Track and is facilitated by the Office of RTCYPP. “Religion and religious leaders can and should play a positive role in a conflict.” Said Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Director of the Office of RTCYPP. “The regular pilgrimages to St Barnabas and Hala Sultan for hundreds of faithful who were not able to visit religious sites for worship due to the political situation in Cyprus are among the achievements of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus upholding a fundamental freedom”.

The Saint Barnabas monastery consists of a church, the Cathedral of Saint Barnabas, now serving as an icon museum, the monastery, now housing an archaeological collection, and a chapel housing the remains of the Saint.  Since 2016 prayers take place monthly at the chapel and there are regular worship services at the Cathedral, led by the Dean.

Apostle Barnabas was born in Cyprus and was stoned to death in Salamis in 45 AD. He is described as 'a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith' (Acts 6:24). Barnabas, means 'son of consolation' or 'man of encouragement.' Although Barnabas was not among the original Twelve Apostles, he is traditionally thought to have been among the 72 commissioned by Jesus to preach; thus, he is given the honorary title of Apostle. He is considered the founder of the Church of Cyprus.