International Peace Day 2020

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the UN General Assembly (A/RES/36/67) to commemorate and strengthen the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted (A/RES/55/282) to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace. The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace is “Shaping Peace Together.” To celebrate the day, the world is invited to: spread compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic; and stand together against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hatred.
International #PeaceDay 2020 #RTCYPP #10Years - #BuildingBridges #10YearsDialogue4Peace #Standup4ReligiousFreedom

 

RTCYPP Press Release 16 June 2020

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden Ann Linde Meets with the five Religious Leaders of Cyprus

 16 June 2020

H.E. Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, marked the 10 Year Anniversary of the RTCYPP by meeting with the Religious Leaders of Cyprus. The event was hosted by the Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Anders Hagelberg, and moderated by Sweden’s Special Envoy on Religion in Conflict and Peacebuilding.

Minister A. Linde congratulated the religious leaders of Cyprus for being the first in Cyprus to work together uninterrupted for human rights and peace, despite politics and real challenges.

“By coming together you have shown a different path. You meet regularly despite the political climate, you coordinate your responses. And you courageously stand up for the rights and each other’s needs. You have shown that religion can unite instead of divide.

You have shown that Cyprus should represent a mosaic of both Christian and Muslim culture across the island. You have shown that peace, healing and forgiveness is not just a dream. It is actually possible.”

On this occasion, Minister Linde asked Ambassador Hagelberg to hand over, in the name of His Majesty the King, the Royal Order of the Polar Star awarded to the Director of the Office of the Religious Track, Ms. Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud. Salpy is the one of the few Cypriots to receive this rare Swedish order, awarded to foreigners who have done extraordinary efforts for Sweden.

The motivation stated that, “Salpy has given Sweden visibility in the Cyprus peace process, a role as political actor and promoted Sweden and Swedish culture. She has put Sweden in the limelight, while standing discreetly behind. Her disinterested emphasis of Sweden as an actor for peace in Cyprus has substantially widened and deepened our bilateral relation on several levels, including on the highest political one.”

The Religious Leaders welcomed the meeting, thanked the Minister for the support of the Swedish government, and congratulated the RTCYPP Director for the award. In turn, they expressed their commitment to continue and build on the genuine cooperation they have had with the Embassy of Sweden and develop stronger and new ties with the Minister herself, as well as with her Ministry.

“The last ten years we have shown our strong will and commitment to work together to restore religious freedom in Cyprus. Religion is not the problem or the cause of the Cyprus conflict. Religious freedom is one of its victims”, said Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus. “It is the responsibility of the political leaders to solve this problem”.

“Despite the challenges and negative reactions, we reiterate whenever and wherever we can that places of worship have to be respected as such and be used for the purpose they were intended to”, said Mufti of Cyprus.

Without the right to access, to freely care for, administer and pray at our places of worship the wounds of separation will only get worse.  We are committed not to allow that to happen”, said Archbishop Khoren of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

“Healing the memories of the past, purifying them and to work on reconciliation between divided communities is our mission and nothing will stop us from doing what is most natural for us”, said Archbishop Soueif of the Maronite Church of Cyprus.

“We know the power and impact of forgiveness on healing and transformation”, said the Latin Patriarchal Vicar Reverend Jerzy Kraj. “Peacemakers become a channel of God's grace to others. When we pray for those who have offended us, it frees us to love as God loves. God's grace has power not only to change us, but also those who have hurt us.”

“I am honored to serve the cause of human rights and peace with the country I adopted because of your values I deeply cherish”, said Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud on receiving the award. “I thank you for trusting me and for believing in me to help Cyprus in a way I would never be able to if it were not for Sweden and the Religious Leaders of Cyprus.”

The meeting took place at the Home for Cooperation in the UN controlled Buffer Zone where the Religious Leaders present could be connected to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Muftiate of Cyprus electronically.

RTCYPP News 11.06.2020

As a gesture of goodwill, an expression of respect, Turkish Cypriot Muslims prayed at the Tomb of Apostle Barnabas. This year members of the Church of Cyprus ( Greek Orthodox) were not able to visit Saint Barnabas Monastery to pay their respects at the Tomb of the Apostle and pray at the Main Cathedral odue to the restrictions of movement in place for COVID 19 dividing the island into two parts.

"For us Apostle Barnabas is one of the holiest persons in Cyprus. As a close companion to Jesus he is a considered a very important saint in Islam. We pray for him not only today but always."Shakir Alemdar, Imam of Hala Sultan Tekke and Mufti of Larnaca, who expressed his regrets that Christians were not able to visit and pray at the Tomb of the saint this year.

Background Information:
On 11 June Christianity marks the feast of APOSTLE BARNABAS, venerated as the Patron Saint of Cyprus, founder of the autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, a prominent Christian disciple, born in Cyprus.
On this occasion, annual prayer services and pilgrimages are held on June 10-11 at the Cathedral and at the Tomb of St Barnabas in Salamis, in the Famagusta region of Cyprus.
The Saint Barnabas Monastery consists of the Cathedral of Saint Barnabas and a small chapel housing the remains of the Saint. As a result of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden and their 2014 agreement, for the first time since 1974 permission was secured for monthly worship services at the chapel over the Tomb of St Barnabas and every other month at the Main Cathedral including pilgrimages on June 10 and 11, to celebrate the feast of St Barnabas

RTCYPP News 03.06.2020

Executive Director of the Office for RTCYPP, Salpy Eskidjian took part in the 10th Online Session for KAICIID Fellows Alumni Network in Vienna, as the keynote speaker of the session titled “ The role of Religious Leaders in the Cyprus Peace Process”.

KAICIID is an intergovernmental organization whose mandate is to promote dialogue globally, as a means to prevent and resolve conflict and to enhance understanding and cooperation. The KAICIID International Fellows Programme (KIFP) is a training programme designed to connect and cultivate a network of religious leaders, educators and IRD practitioners from diverse various countries and from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other religious backgrounds.

Ms Eskidjian spoke about the Cyprus conflict and peace process, the role of Religious Leaders in the process and the challenges and lessons learnt from working with such diverse communities. The participants were particularly interested in how education affects understanding and peace building activities, how to better promote gender equality when working with religious communities, as well as how communities can work together so that religion is not misused in conflicts.

The Online session was organised by the KAICIID Fellows Programme team.

Statement by the Religious Leaders of Cyprus condemning the attack to Köprülü Mosque in Limassol 1.6.20

Statement by the Religious Leaders of Cyprus condemning the attack to Köprülü Mosque in Limassol 1.6.20

We, 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, committed and working all together for human rights and peace in Cyprus, express our united voice in condemning the acts of vandalization done last night to Köprülü Mosque in Limassol.

We are very saddened to hear this morning that petrol bombs were thrown into the sacred premises of the Köprülü Mosque and the outer wall was vandalised with racist graffiti against Islam and immigrants.

We categorically condemn any and all acts of vandalization and disrespect done to sacred places of worship. We are horrified to see such acts of violence and expression of Islamophobia, xenophobia and discrimination.

We stand up against all actions that try to damage the multicultural character of Cyprus we all strive to maintain. No acts of hatred can become obstacles to the power of love. For us, places of worship are sacred spaces where a culture of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation is nurtured and cultivated. .

For the past four years, the Köprülü Mosque in the Ayios Antonios neighbourhood in Limassol has been one of the positive examples of good and respectful cooperation of all stakeholders involved, including the Muftiate Of Cyprus, the current custodian and the local community association advancing religious freedom. As such, acts like these are not only disrespectful to the religious community but to all those who work together to advance respect, human rights and freedom of religion.

RTCYPP News 01.06.2020

Religious Leaders of Cyprus met with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Cyprus, Head of UNFICYP and Deputy Head of United Nations Good Offices, Mrs Elisabeth Spehar at 10.00 am on June 1, 2020. The meeting was convened by the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) under the Auspices of Ambassador Hagelberg of Sweden and chaired by Sweden’s Special Envoy on Religion, Peace-building & Conflict Peter Weiderud.

The religious leaders appreciated an update on the status of the UN led peace talks in Cyprus and the opportunity to share their assessment and discuss ways they can contribute to confidence & peacebuilding, healing of memories, reconciliation and protecting the environment.

SRSG Spehar heard how the religious leaders addressed the challenges of COVID 19 including their efforts to care for the most vulnerable and outlined the messages of the UN Secretary General in this regard. Mrs Spehar welcomed the unity, cooperation and solidarity of the religious leaders of Cyprus throughout the pandemic

Joint Communique by the Religious Leaders of Cyprus adopted on 6 May 2020

Joint Communiqué

6 May 2020

We, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus gather in the spirit of Easter and Ramadan!

For the first time since we started working together as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process we are divided physically. For the first time in ten years we cannot gather together to meet in person.

With restrictions on movements in place, within and between our respective communities we are asked to stay home to save lives and not place undue burden on the health-care workers who selflessly are caring for the sick and vulnerable. This also means that our communities are divided from one another and separated from their beloved places of worship and cemeteries where their family members are laid to rest.

With the Grace of God, we are grateful that we, remain united, despite our physical separation. This is thanks to the trust we have cultivated and the confidence we have nurtured through our uninterrupted cooperation since 2011.

With pain we witness the ordeals of our communities, especially the most vulnerable groups in our society; the poor, the marginalized and the homeless.  No matter where we live and which community we belong to, the insecurities, the fears, and the pain are the same.

We are thankful that the strict measures in response to the pandemic and the sacrifices made by all island-wide have not been futile. Cypriots have managed to keep the virus under control avoiding mass loss of life. In this respect, we call on our faithful to continue to abide by the directives of the state health authorities and call on the state authorities to reinforce an island-wide reflection and response post-lockdown.

This is not a time of self-centeredness, indifference, division and forgetfulness.

This is the time of real solidarity, compassion and unity. An opportunity to reflect and find ways to overcome greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding and hate.  An opportunity for all to respect nature and all life in it.

Let us pray for those worst hit by the pandemic; for those who selflessly aid and care for the sick; and for a better tomorrow for all.  We continue to fervently pray for Cypriots to heal the painful memories of the past and work united tackling our challenges as one.

 

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

H.E. Dr Talip Atalay, Mufti of Cyprus

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

H.E. Youssef Soueif, Archbishop of the Maronite Church of Cyprus

Reverend Father Jerzy Kraj, Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Cyprus

 

RTCYPP News 06.05.2020

On 6 May 2020, the Religious Leaders of the main faith communities of Cyprus, who form the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden came together for their first virtual High Level Meeting.

This was the first time in the history of the Religious Track that they were physically divided, due to restrictions put in place by state authorities in order to deal with the COVID 19 pandemic.
The religious leaders met for two hour sharing their concerns and priorities with each other. They also adopted the attached Joint Communique where they stressed the importance of physical distancing instead of social distancing, solidarity, unity, compassion and hope. Please see the full Joint Communique adopted in English attached.

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