Press Release 20.3.2020

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

20.3.2020

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.

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 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.

RTCYPP News 2.12.19

RTCYPP News 02.12.19

Sweden’s EU Minister Mr. Hans Dahlgren Visits Office Of RTCYPP

29 November 2019

On 29 November 2019, RTCYPP Exceutive Director, Salpy Eskidjian was honoured and privileged to meet with the EU Minister of Sweden Mr. Hans Dahlgren who was visiting Cyprus for EU consultations.

Minister Dahlgren was accompanied by the Ambassador of Sweden Mr. Anders Hagelberg, Deputy Director of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Per Hallström, and Political Adviser to the Minister Mr. Kristoffer Strömgren.

Salpy Eskidjian warmly welcomed Minister Dahlgren and thanked him for his interest and apprection of the RTCYPP. She extended the greetings and gratitude of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus to the Swedish Government for the longstanding support to a unique human rights based peacebuilding initiative and for the excellent cooperation with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting took place at the Office of RTCYPP based at the Home for Cooperation in the UN Controlled Buffer Zone, Nicosia.

 

 

Press Release 19.6.19

World Refugee Day 2019

Office of RTCYPP highlights the United Voice of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus and Takes a Step #WithRefugees

To mark World Refugee Day, Office of RTCYPP highlights the united voice of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus, issued in the video statement in solidarity with refugees around the world who are forced to abandon their homes, their land and their environment.

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus call on the faith communities in Cyprus to stand with refugees by taking big and small steps in solidarity with them. They reiterate their call on decision-makers to address the underlying causes of refugees and uphold the human right to asylum.

Help solve the problems of refugees and for the Mediterranean Sea to cease being a graveyard for innocent people.”
(Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus).

Faith communities are called on to provide safe spaces and support;

“Embracing refugees and providing them with maximum care is not only humanitarian requirements, but is also a religious obligation
(Mufti of Cyprus Dr. Talip Atalay).

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus emphasize the responsibility to love and support refugees;

“Refugees are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life”
(Father Jerzy Kraj of the Latin Catholic Church of Cyprus).

Religions teach us to love each other, and we should extend this love equally to our fellow human beings”
(Archbishop Khoren Doghramajian of the Armenian Church of Cyprus).

“Let us welcome them, listen to them, protect and accompany them and learn from their potential”
(Archbishop Youssef Soueif of the Maronite Church of Cyprus).

Every year on June 20th, World Refugee Day, is marked worldwide to reaffirm the commitment of all actors involved to support refugees and raise awareness of this global responsibility. UNHCR and partners on this special day pay tribute to the strength and courage of refugees, people who have had to flee their homelands because of conflict or persecution.  On World Refugee Day, we want to show that families forced to flee are people like you and me.

In a world where violence forces thousands of people to flee for their lives every day, let’s all Take a Step #WithRefugees!

 

#Take a Step #WithRefugees #UNHCR #RTCYPP

19.6.19

Joint Greeting for Eid al-Fitr 4.6.19

Joint Greeting from the Christian Religious Leaders of Cyprus for Eid al-Fitr/Ramazan Bayram
4 June 2019

On the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, we, the Christian Religious Leaders of Cyprus wish our brother, the Mufti of Cyprus, the clerical order of Imams and all Muslim faithful of and in Cyprus a blessed Ramazan Bayram/Eid al-Fitr!

We pray that Ramadan was spiritually uplifting for all. We especially pray for the most vulnerable among us. May God’s bright light shed on the path of enlightenment, grant forgiveness, blessings of peace, and grace upon all faithful.

Eid Mubarak!

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

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

Joint Statement 15.3.19

Religious Leaders of Cyprus Stand United Against the Terror Attacks at two Mosques in New Zealand
15.3.19

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)

 

Press Release 19.6.18

Religious Leaders of Cyprus Encourage Fair Treatment and Compassion for Refugees in Cyprus

and Around the World in a Joint Video Statement

To mark the occasion of World Refugee Day 2018, the Religious leaders of Cyprus have jointly issued a welcoming video statement that advocates inclusion, understanding, and support for refugees and asylum seekers in Cyprus. The Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) has facilitated the video production in cooperation with the Religious Leaders of Cyprus and UNHCR - Cyprus.

The video includes statements from H.B Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus, H.E. the Mufti of Cyprus Dr. Talip Atalay,H.E. Archbishop Khoren Doghramadjian of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of Cyprus, H.E. Archbishop Youssef Soueif of the Maronite Church of Cyprus and Rev Jerzy Kraj, Latin Patriarchal Vicar.

In anxious times such as the one we are living in today, enhanced partnership is essential not only between the United Nations and faith-based actors, but also among these organizations themselves, in building welcoming, tolerant and inclusive communities based on the common values of caring and respect for the stranger,”said Mr. Damtew Dessalegne, the UNHCR Representative in Cyprus.  “With this powerful joint statement by the five main religious leaders of Cyprus, we indeed see the start of a strong interreligious dialogue related to refugee protection in Cyprus,“ continued Mr. Dessalegne.

Their combined statement has formulated a comprehensive narrative that draws attention to the challenges faced by refugees throughout their journeys. Calling on the state and individuals alike, they emphasize the moral teachings of their respective faith tradition. They advocate for society as a whole to accept the refugees that come to Cyprus, to treat them with respect and to help them rebuild their lives.

The inspirational words of this joint statement send a clear message that both the Christian and Muslim Religious Leaders of Cyprus stand together with refugees and urge all Cypriots to do the same.” Says Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Director of the Office of RTCYPP.

A common theme throughout is the importance of welcoming refugees into Cypriot society, as seen in the following insightful remarks.

H.B Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus, sends a global message for “everyone to devote particular attention to refugees who are forced to flee their homeland, their homes, for a better life.” Further strengthened his appeal to policy makers, “to help solve the problems of the refugees and for the Mediterranean Sea to stop being a graveyard of innocent people.”

H.E. Mufti of Cyprus Dr. Talip Atalay states that, “all segments of the civil society should make efforts and conduct activities in order to lay the groundwork and a prepare a path for integrating the refugees into the society they live in and for encouraging them to bring a positive contribution.”

H.E. Archbishop Khoren Doghramadjian of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of Cyprus recognizes that “We usually try not to think about them [refugees], but this is not right. Religions teach us to love each other, and we should extend this love equally to our fellow human beings and to help them.”He suggests to, “restore their dignity as human beings, to free them from their mind-set as refugees and to enable them to adapt to life in a strange land.”

H.E. Archbishop Youssef Soueif of the Maronite Church of Cyprus calls on all actors within society to help refugees by saying, “We should all try as individuals, as institutions, religious institutions, civil institutions, political institutions, we should try to help them [refugees] to be integrated in to their new societies.”

Rev Jerzy Kraj of the Latin Patriarchal Vicar recognizes that refugees are simply, “our brothers and sisters in search of a better life far away from war, poverty and hunger.” His prayers go out “to those that have devoted their lives and their efforts to helping.”

Embracing the words and actions of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, Special Representative of the Secretary-General/Head of UNFICYP, echoed their sentiments, stating, “Despite the current challenging environment, it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the needs of those seeking refuge from conflict are evaluated with empathy, that they receive a fair hearing and a chance to be productive members of an inclusive community.” She continued in praise of their efforts, underscoring that, “Through their strong and compassionate joint statement, the five main religious leaders of Cyprus have lent their influential voices to support refugees in Cyprus and, more broadly, to the global quest of the conflict-affected for a better life.”

Press Release 7.2.18

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of UN Peacekeeping Operation in Cyprus extends her support to the peacebuilding efforts of the RTCYPP during World Interfaith Harmony Week

On 7 February 2018, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) and Head of UNFICYP, Ms. Elizabeth Spehar, visited a selected number of religious monuments and cemeteries high on the agenda of the religious leaders of Cyprus. Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and Dr. Talip Atalay, Mufti of Cyprus welcomed the visit and the support of UNFICYP.

Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis and Imam Shakir Alemdar of Hala Sultan Tekke briefed the SRSG about the state of the religious monuments visited, and about some of the challenges the faith communities face in regards to accessing and restoring these sites of worship. SRSG Spehar thanked the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) for organizing the visit and took the opportunity to express her support for the joint advocacy efforts of the religious leaders of Cyprus for religious freedom, coexistence, peace and reconciliation.

The visit took place on the last day of World Interfaith Harmony Week, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to acknowledge that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace. The joint field visit to religious monuments are a positive example of how the religious leaders of Cyprus, within the framework of RTCYPP, are working together in solidarity to advocate for religious freedom and the protection of all religious monuments in Cyprus.

Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Sweden, Mr. Peter Kvist and RTCYPP Executive Coordinator Ms. Salpy Eskidjian accompanied the visit. The RTCYPP is an unprecedented local confidence and peacebuilding effort, initiated in 2009 under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden.