RTCYPP News 24.10.19

2019 RTCYPP/ODIHR-OSCE Seminar on Freedom of Religion or Belief

On UN Day 2019, Office of RTCYPP and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) welcomed representatives of Religious Leaders and eight faith communities of Cyprus to the second training seminar on advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief emphasizing the right of all men and women to freely practice their religion or belief which is key to achieving lasting peace and security.

RTCYPP News 16.10.19

Conference on peace-building hosted by Archbishop of the Maronite Church of Cyprus H.E. Youssef Soueif on the occasion of the visit of Archbishop of Milan H.E. Mario Enrico Delpini

The peacebuilding efforts of the Religious Leaders Of Cyprus within the framework of RTCYPP under the Auspices of the Embassy Of Sweden and their joint activities to advance religious freedom in Cyprus were highlighted at a conference on peace-building at the Maronite Church Hall in Nicosia this afternoon.

Among the speakers were the representative of HB Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus , the Executive Director of the Office of RTCYPP, representatives of the Chief of UN peacekeeping force ( UNFICYP) and UN Good Offices in Cyprus including the co-chairs of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage. Insights and experiences on peacekeeping, peace building and reconciliation in Cyprus were shared.

The conference was organized and hosted by HE Archbishop Soueif of the Maronite Church for a delegation of the Archdiocese of Milan, led by the Archbishop of Milan, H.E. Mario Enrico Delpini. The conference was followed by a church service ( Holy Mass) at the Maronite Cathedral in Nicosia and a reception at the Betmoroun Maronite Archbishopric. Honored guests included the Ambassador of Italy, representatives of President of the Republic of Cyprus H.E Mr Anastasiades & Foreign Minister, H.E. Mr Christodoulides.

H.E. Archbishop Delpini and the delegation from Milan are on a pilgrimage in Cyprus to follow the path of the Apostle Paul.

RTCYPP News 15.10.19

Presentation of RTCYPP for Swedish UN veterans

The Office of RTCYPP were happy to present the efforts and achievements of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process to the association “Fredsbaskrarna” (“the Peace Berets”); UN veterans who have served in the Swedish contingents of UNFICYP from 1964 to 1987.

Sweden was one of the first troop-contributing countries to UNFICYP.

The Swedish UN force on Cyprus was Sweden’s largest ever peace-keeping mission. It lasted from 1964 to 1993.
In all, Sweden provided 25 616 military personnel and 2 365 police officials.

The Swedish Contingent that took over responsibility for Famagusta district in April 1974– had a strength of 240 military personnel and police officers.

One of many new duties of the Swedish peacekeepers in the wake of the in the aftermath of the war in 1974 was to feed and take care of animals at farms, left behind by their fleeing Greek Cypriot owners.

They also set up and manned new observation posts in Famagusta district and acted as mediators between the opposing forces. The Swedish UN Contingent was also charged with the task of evacuating all Scandinavian tourists from the island. There were over 800 here at the time.

In the mission, 18 Swedes died. It is also worth noting that Sweden broke new ground by employing women in the UN mission for the first time.

The meeting took place at the Home for Cooperation in the Nicosia Buffer Zone.

RTCYPP News 11.10.19

First visits of H.E. Ambassador Hagelberg to Religious Leaders of Cyprus

H.E. Ambassador Anders Hagelberg of Sweden extended his respects to the Religious Leaders of Cyprus, namely H.B Archbishop Chrysostomos II, H.E Mufti Talip Atalay, H.E. Archbishop Youssef Soueif, H.E. Archbishop Khoren Doghramadjian, and Fr. Jerzy Kraj (joined by Apostolic Nuncio to Cyprus H.E. Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli), during his first formal meeting with them. Ambassador Hagelberg was warmly welcomed by all the religious leaders of Cyprus who reiterated their commitment to continue their dialogue and joint efforts for human rights, peace and reconciliation within the framework of the RTCYPP.

RTCYPP News 8.9.19

First Holy Liturgy in Church of Panagia of Lysi since 1974
8 Sep 2019

H.E Bishop Porfyrios Of Neapolis officiated the holy liturgy celebrating the birth of Theotokos, mother of Jesus Christ, at the Church of Panagia of Lysi for the first time ever since 1974.

The Church was packed with a thousand worshippers of all ages. H.E. Bishop Porfyrios expressed the appreciation of the Church Of Cyprus and prayed for all who intervened for today’s church service, in particular, “the Office For the RTCYPP for its continuous support and efforts to advance religious freedom in Cyprus”.

The Church of Panagia of Lysi was built in 1888 by Master builder Yiakoumis from the village of Kontea with heavy influences from the medieval Gothic Cathedrals of St Sophia in Nicosia and St Nicholas in Famagusta.

“It was very emotional to witness one of the priests, a native of Lysi and a valued member of the RTCYPP, assisting the liturgy., said Salpy Eskidjian of the Office for the RTCYPP. Father Savvas was only 12 when he last prayed at this church. After decades he had the opportunity to be part of this historic day in the life of his local community and church as their priest.

The worshippers and clerics expressed their gratitude to all who made this day possible in particular to those who supported and approved their application to pray at their Church on this special occasion. Office for the RTCYPP in its turn extended its appreciation to all who cooperated, facilitated and respected the right to worship.

(Photo credits: Office of Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis and Mr Pavlos Nacouzi)

RTCYPP News 14.8.19

16th Special Pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke

RTCYPP coordinated pilgrimage to HalaSultanTekke with 305 pilgrims took place on 13 August 2019 led by the Mufti of Cyprus Prof. Dr Talip Atalay on the occasion of Eid al-Adha/Qurban Bayram 2019.

Executive Director of the Office of RTCYPP who oversaw the crossings and pilgrimage thanked His Excellency the Mufti for the excellent organization and extended the greetings and best wishes of the Christian religious leaders of Cyprus, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II, His Eminence Archbishop Khoren Doghramadjian, His Excellency Archbishop Youssef Soueif and the Reverend Father Jerzy Kraj.

This was the 16th Special Pilgrimage following an agreement within the framework of the RTCYPP between Archbishop Chrysostomos II and Mufti Atalay in 2014, which takes place three times a year to mark Eid al Fitr/Ramadan Bayram, Eid al Adha/Qurban Bayram and Mawlid al-Nabi/Mevlid. The pilgrimages bring together Turkish nationals, who otherwise can not cross the dividing line, to exercise their right to worship at the most significant mosque in Cyprus.

Office of RTCYPP is grateful for the facilitation provided by UN Police and UNFICYP Civil Affairs as well as the cooperation of the Cyprus Police, Turkish Cypriot police officers, the Department of Antiquities and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus.

RTCYPP News 17.7.19

Press Release by the Swedish Government

17 July 2019

The Government of Sweden issued a press release on the International Religious Freedom Award, which Director of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process Salpy Eskidjian receives from the U.S. State Department on 17 July, 2019, in Washington during the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

The press release is attached below in Swedish, followed by a congratulatory post by Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, along with a link to an article in Svenska Dagbladet, one of Sweden's major newspapers.

Press release from the Government of Sweden: 
"Pressmeddelande från Utrikesdepartementet

Svenskledd religiös dialog på Cypern prisas


Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud, direktör för den svenskledda religiösa dialogen i Cypern, tilldelas i dag det amerikanska utrikesdepartementets religionsfrihetspris The Secretary’s Inagural International Religous Freedom Award i Washington.

Under snart tio års tid har Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud arbetat med fredsbyggandeinitiativet den religiösa dialogen i Cyperns fredsprocess (The Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process). Initiativet för samman religiösa ledare på ön i syfte att stärka mänskliga rättigheter, fred och försoning. Genom ambassaden i Nicosia är Sverige delaktiga i projektet som till största delen finansieras av utrikesdepartementet.

– Salpy Eskidjian Weideruds outtröttliga arbete för fred och försoning är banbrytande och har väckt uppskattning inte bara i Cypern utan världen över. Hennes insatser för dialog, mänskliga rättigheter och jämställdhet i fredsprocessen är något som regeringen kommer att fortsätta stödja, säger utrikesminister Margot Wallström.

Dialogen har pågått sedan 2009 och lyfts fram av FN:s generalsekreterare och FN:s säkerhetsråd som ett förtroendeskapande initiativ i Cypern. Ett konkret exempel som uppmärksammats är de religiösa ledarnas gemensamma fördömande av våld mot kvinnor och flickor från 2017 som är det första i sitt slag i världen.  

 – Det är en ära att tilldelas denna utmärkelse som ett uppskattat erkännande av Cyperns religiösa ledares gemensamma arbete för fred och försoning med stöd av den svenska regeringen, säger Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud.

Priset, som delas ut för första gången i år, ska ges till personer som visar ett pågående och obevekligt engagemang för främjandet av religionsfrihet. Utdelningsceremonin äger rum i Washington idag.

För mer information om priset och utdelningsceremonin följ länken: International Religious Freedom Award Winners

Ceremonin sänds live på www.state.gov klockan 18:00 lokal tid."


Facebook post from FM Margot Wallström:

USA:s utrikesdepartement delar för första gången ut ett religionsfrihetspris ”The Secretary’s Inagural International Religious Freedom Award”. Jag är mycket glad att dela nyheten att fredsmäklaren och direktören för den svenskledda religiösa dialogen i Cypern, Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud, tilldelas detta pris.

Den Religiösa dialogen (The Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process) är ett fredsbyggandeinitiativ som drivs med stöd av den svenska ambassaden i Nicosia och till största del finansieras av medel från UD. Den syftar till att föra samman öns religiösa ledare för mänskliga rättigheter, fred och försoning.

Salpy Eskidjian Weideruds arbete har rönt konkreta framgångar. Som fredsmäklare har hon varit avgörande för att bryta ny mark i fredsprocessen. Ett exempel är de religiösa ledarnas gemensamma fördömande av våld mot kvinnor och flickor, vilket är det första uttalandet av sitt slag i världen. Jag känner stolthet över att Sverige är en del av det viktiga arbete som Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud genomför. Sverige kommer fortsätta att stödja initiativets arbete för dialog, förtroendebyggande och fred.

Priset delas ut av USA:s utrikesdepartement vid en ceremoni i Washington under dagen.




RTCYPP News 16.7.19

Director of Office of RTCYPP winner of International Award for Religious Freedom

U.S. State Department announces on 16 July 2019 that Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Director of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process Cyprus, is one of the winners of the International Award for Religious Freedom.

Press Release from the U.S. State Department:

"On July 17, Secretary Pompeo will host the State Department’s first-ever International Religious Freedom Awards ceremony to honor extraordinary advocates of religious freedom from around the world at 6:00 p.m.

The full biographies of the 2019 awardees can be found here and their names are listed below:

  • Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan of Sudan has worked tirelessly to defend the rights of Sudan’s religious minorities, both in his legal casework and through public advocacy.
  • Imam Abubakar Abdullahi of Nigeria selflessly risked his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention.
  • Ivanir dos Santos of Brazil worked exhaustively to support interfaith dialogue, combat discrimination, and create mechanisms for the protection of vulnerable groups.
  • William and Pascale Warda of Iraq have devoted their lives to advancing religious freedom and other human rights causes in Iraq.
  • Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud of Cyprus has fully committed herself to working with religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and religious communities on a broad range of issues, including religious freedom. She is also one of the architects and facilitators of an unprecedented peacebuilding initiative in Cyprus known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden based in Nicosia, Cyprus.

This event will be livestreamed on www.state.gov and a press pool will cover the event.

We invite you to use #IRFAwards to follow along with conversations on this year’s awards and #IRFMinisterial for discussions on the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. For press inquiries, please contact IRFMinisterialPress@state.gov."




RTCYPP News 28.6.19

RTCYPP Language Classes Conclude its Fourth Successful Semester

27 June 2019

RTCYPP Language Classes concluded it’s fourth successful semester and welcomed Ambassador of Sweden, Mrs Anna Olsson Vrang, who honoured the unprecedented initiative with her presence and handed certificates to the participants of the 2018-2019 term.

The RTCYPP Language Classes are one of the most practical peacebuilding initiative and long term investment that gives me hope. I thank each one of you for being here”, Ambassador Olsson Vrang told the participants. “Learning each other’s language is a concrete way to contribute to further nurture mutual respect between the different faith communities of Cyprus and build trust through knowledge as well as interpersonal encounters.”

The Office of RTCYPP initiated the RTCYPP Language Classes in 2017 as a concrete confidence building measure with the approval, full support and blessings of the Christian and Muslim Religious Leaders of Cyprus. For the very first time clerics and laypersons from the mainline religious communities of Cyprus jointly started learning each other’s language.

Organized and hosted by the Office of RTCYPP, classes for Greek and Turkish took place weekly in adjacent rooms at the Home for Cooperation giving the participants a unique opportunity to come together to meet, interact, learn and practise each other’s languages in a friendly environment.   During this time, 25 clerics, laypersons, and nuns from five faith communities endorsed by their respective religious leader, have participated in the course learning either Greek or Turkish. The joint classes and excursions offered a unique opportunity for all to practise their newly learned skills with each other, enter a positive cycle of increased understanding and trust-building through getting to know each other better, and learn about each other’s traditions and cultures more closely.

Learning and speaking each other’s language is one of the most significant steps toward a unified peaceful coexistence in a divided island where members of the two main communities do not know and speak each other’s language”, said the Director of the Office of RTCYPP Mrs Salpy Eskidjian. “We hope that the members of faith communities learning each others language can be role models in Cyprus, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.”

The course participants thanked the Office of RTCYPP for this opportunity and the Ambassador of Sweden for all her support. All the participants echoed one another with the same heart-warming message.  We thank you for providing us with this opportunity, not only to learn each other’s language but to have built friendships on a level we did not expect. We have become a family! We do not come here only as students to learn, we come here to see our family.” The Language Classes are part of the RTCYPP #KnowYourNeighbour initiative and fully funded by the Office of RTCYPP. The current academic term there were 3 priests, 3 imams and 4 laypersons enrolled.


Joint initiatives of the RTCYPP Language Classes during 2018-2019 Term:

The participants helped the Office of RTCYPP to organise four joint excursions to different places of worship, including historic monuments like St John’s Cathedral at the Archbishopric of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Bayrakdar Mosque and the St Maroun Chapel and the newly refurbished Betmoroun socio-cultural and pastoral Centre of the Maronite Church of Cyprus. During Ramadan, the RTCYPP Language Course team were welcomed to Hala Sultan Tekke for an Iftar.  Together with the Home for Cooperation, two soap-making workshops in three languages were offered to participants from across the island. Participants also enjoyed a visit to the Centre of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR) – the only bi-communal museum in Cyprus – where they were given a personal tour by its founder and Director and appreciated the Swedish Embassy’s photo exhibition “Swedish Dads”.


RTCYPP News 27.6.19

The Director of the Office of RTCYPP joins the Ambassador of Sweden to bid farewell to the Swedish contingent of UNFICYP UNPOL, upon the completion of their one-year term of serving UN police. 

Salpy Eskidjian expressed the appreciation of the Office of RTCYPP: “On behalf of the Religious Track, I thank you for being such great role models and for your committed service. We are especially grateful for your valuable role in the three annual special pilgrimages to Hala Sultan Tekke.” 

The two Swedish police officers were the first Swedes to serve in UNFICYP since 1993, and will now join the group of nearly 28 000 veterans who served on the island between 1964 and 1993. They will be succeeded by two new police officers from Sweden.  In addition to its full support to the peacebuilding efforts the Office of RTCPP, Sweden currently has one person seconded to UNFICYP Civil Affairs.