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.

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.

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

 

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

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."

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)