United Nations References to RTCYPP

Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Cyprus
Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Question of Human Rights in Cyprus
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Report of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights on Her Mission to Cyprus

S/2018/25 9 January 2018

 

24. Opportunities to visit and hold services at religious sites continue to be important to both communities. During the reporting period, UNFICYP facilitated the participation of more than 5,375 people in 34 religious services and commemorative activities, of which 27 were in the north and 7 in the buffer zone. During the same period in 2016, a total of 36 were held, of which 29 were in the north and 7 in the buffer zone. The Force also facilitated the crossing of nearly 2,270 pilgrims from the northern part of Cyprus to the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in Larnaca on 26 June, 5 September and 29 November. The pilgrimage on 29 November was the eleventh following the joint agreement of the religious leaders in 2014.

25. Given that such events constitute a significant confidence-building measure, UNFICYP noted with concern the decline in the number of applications for religious services that it was asked to facilitate in the north and a decline in the number of approvals for such services in comparison with the same period in 2016. The Force remained concerned about other restrictions that hampered religious worship on the island, including time limitations on religious worship in mosques in the south. All restrictions on the freedom of worship, including those relating to access to religious sites, should be lifted.
26. The religious leaders of Cyprus continued to demonstrate their commitment to joint dialogue and the promotion of religious freedom within the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, with ongoing support from UNFICYP. During the reporting period, the religious leaders launched an unprecedented joint initiative to provide Greek- and Turkish-language classes for members of the clerical orders, nuns and laypersons working in different religious institutions. The participants meet weekly in the buffer zone, broadening the circle of dialogue and cooperation among the religious institutions.

27. On 28 September, the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), convened the third round table on human rights since 2013. OHCHR introduced the “Faith for Rights” initiative, launched in March 2017 with the adoption of the Beirut Declaration, in which faith-based civil society actors recognized “religious or belief convictions as a source for the protection of the whole spectrum of inalienable human entitlements”. Religious leaders and representatives from 16 religious groups and civil society organizations participated in the discussion in Cyprus, and the Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments were translated into Greek and Turkish by the Religious Track.

 

S/2017/586 10 July 2017

 

22. The religious leaders of Cyprus also continued to demonstrate their commitment to joint dialogue and the promotion of religious freedom within the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden. During the reporting period, they played a role in highlighting gender issues, issuing a joint statement on 8 March under Religious Track auspices, condemning all forms of violence against women. The religious leaders also devoted attention to the issue of the restoration of religious monuments and places of worship. Together with several other key actors, they helped to secure support for the stabilization of two significant churches, St. George and St. Jacob, which are located along the Green Line. This important cultural preservation work has been included in the agenda of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.

 

23. Access to religious sites has been a concern of the Religious Track and for worshipers alike. Although freedom of movement island-wide is facilitated as a result of the seven crossings, religious sites are not always accessible to all who wish to use them. Services are permitted only once annually at some churches in the north, and cumbersome procedures are in place for the transfer of religious icons from south to north to be used during religious services. Some limitations to religious worship in mosques in the south remain in place.

 

S/2017/20 9 January 2017

 

24. The religious leaders of Cyprus continued to demonstrate their commitment to joint dialogue and the promotion of religious freedom, supported by the Embassy of Sweden. The visit on 7 July to Hala Sultan Tekke to celebrate the feast of Bayram included, for the first time, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Maronite, Armenian Orthodox and Latin Catholic representatives. On 9 December, the religious leaders launched a joint appeal via video message to encourage all those with information on the missing to come forward and support the work of the Committee on Missing Persons. On 30 November, the name day of Apostolos Andreas and the first day the Monastery was open to the public, upwards of two thousand people attended a service and visited the Monastery throughout the day with the support of UNDP and UNFICYP.

 

44: As a fundamental human right, there can be no doubt that freedom of worship across the island is important in and of itself. At the same time, it can also provide a context for enhanced interaction between the communities. I call for all restrictions on freedom of worship, including restrictions on access to religious sites, to be lifted.

 

45: I note that joint efforts by the religious leaders continue to lend much needed and broad based support for freedom of worship and the peace. Sustained open dialogue combined with a commitment to freedom of worship by both sides can only serve to open doors for greater understanding and trust.

 

S/2016/11 6 January 2016

 

35 Meanwhile, the religious leaders of Cyprus intensified their dialogue and joint efforts. In their first meeting with Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akıncı, held on 10 September at Ledra Palace Hotel in the buffer zone, the religious leaders reiterated their full support to the negotiations for a settlement of the Cyprus problem and promoted measures to further ease restrictions on freedom of religion, including improved access to sites of worship across the island. On 24 November, the religious leaders issued a joint statement expressing their united voice against all forms of attacks, terrorism and violence in Cyprus and beyond, stressing that the dialogue they had experienced had strengthened their conviction that there would be no future without tolerance, mutual understanding, respect and peaceful coexistence. The visit to Cyprus of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief from 5 to 8 October, for its part, served to highlight the role that cooperation among the religious leaders had played in promoting progress towards the realization of freedom of religion or belief across the island.

 

52 The ongoing dialogue among the leaders of the religious communities contributes positively to the climate surrounding the talks. By easing access to religious sites across the island, religious leaders have played an important role in fostering understanding and reducing mistrust between the communities which, in turn, has helped build grassroots support for reunification. In the critical months ahead, I strongly encourage both sides to continue to support this cooperation, including by enabling full access to the more than 500 churches and other places of worship in the north and to approximately 100 mosques in the south.

 

S/2015/517 2 July 2015

 

45 The dialogue among the leaders of the religious communities continues to make good progress by fostering understanding and overcoming mistrust. I strongly encourage both sides to support the dialogue, including by enabling further access for worship to the more than 500 churches and other places of worship in the north and the some 100 mosques in the south.

 

S/2015/17 9 January 2015

 

17 Dialogue in support of the peace process among the leaders of the religious communities continued to provide a model for constructive cooperation. On 25 and 26 September 2014, the Grand Mufti of Cyprus and the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, at the latter’s invitation, made a joint visit to Paphos and nearby villages. Thanks to the personal intervention of the Grand Mufti, Greek Cypriots were able to worship on 2 November at the church of Saint George in Vadili for the first time since 1974. Seventeen Christian places of worship in the north were cleaned with the support of the Archbishop and, for the first time, of the Association of Mosques and of the Synodal Committee on Monuments of the Church of Cyprus. On 4 and 5 December, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief undertook his second follow-up visit to Cyprus since 2012.

A/HRC/34/15 1 February 2017

 

39. The religious leaders of Cyprus continued their dialogue and joint efforts. On 10 February 2016, they reiterated their full support for the negotiations for a settlement of the Cyprus problem in a statement to the press, in which they called for the further easing of restrictions on freedom of religion, including improved access to destroyed or neglected places of worship and cemeteries in need of repair. In March, the religious leaders delivered the first jointly signed letter to the leaders, outlining their expectations in a settlement with regard to the administration of properties belonging to religious institutions (ibid., para. 25).

 

40. Following the sustained engagement on Cyprus issues by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the religious leaders made their second joint presentation, to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-first session and at a parallel meeting, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations Office at Geneva, jointly highlighting their cooperative efforts for the realization of freedom of religion or belief across the island.

 

A/HRC/31/21 1 February 2016

 

9 In 2015, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief published a follow- up table on steps taken to implement his recommendations to the various stakeholders, following his 2012 mission to the island.3 Information received from the Government of the Republic of Cyprus referred, inter alia, to the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to better support the Muslim communities in the southern part; to further subsidize the infrastructure needed for upholding religious community life; and to respect pilgrimages as an inextricable part of freedom of religion or belief (see A/HRC/22/51/Add.1, paras. 76- 77). Information received from the Turkish Cypriot authorities referred, inter alia, to the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to refrain from any behaviour that could have an intimidating effect on religious communities’ activities; to revise existing restrictions on the accessibility of religious buildings, sites or cemeteries; to diligently investigate allegations of vandalism of religious sites and cemeteries; to handle heritage claims of Christian minorities in a fair and transparent manner; and to respect the right of religious leaders to visit their communities in the northern part without undue restrictions (ibid., paras. 81-85).

 

42 During the period under review, religious leaders, including the Greek Orthodox Archbishop and the Mufti of Cyprus, with the support of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, and under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, intensified their collaboration. On 4 December 2014 and 6 October 2015, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief met with Cypriot religious leaders at interreligious round tables and noted that cooperation among the religious leaders had led to consistent progress in the realization of freedom of religion or belief on the whole island (see A/70/286, para. 9). During the round table held on 6 October 2015, the Cyprus Inter-religious Platform for Human Rights was established in order to facilitate and broaden the dialogue between religious communities and civil society organizations on the island.

 

43 On 24 November 2015, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop, the Mufti of Cyprus, the Maronite Archbishop, the Armenian Archbishop and the Patriarchal Latin Vicar in Cyprus issued a joint statement expressing their united voice against all forms of attack, terrorism and violence in the island, the region and the world at large. They also expressed their commitment to working together for human rights and peace in Cyprus. The religious leaders stressed that the dialogue they had experienced together had strengthened their conviction that there was no future without tolerance, mutual understanding, respect and peaceful coexistence.

 

58 During the period under review, there were several positive developments with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights in Cyprus. They include progress in the search for and identification of the remains of missing persons; a significant increase in the number of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots crossing the Green Line; an encouraging level of interreligious communication and cooperation; the completion of several conservation works of cultural heritage sites on the whole island; the establishment of a bicommunal committee on gender equality; and an agreement to create a bicommunal committee on education.

 

A/HRC/28/20 23 January 2015

 

8 In his report submitted to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fifth session, in March 2014, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief noted an apparent improved climate of interreligious communication and cooperation in Cyprus that he witnessed during the ground-breaking interreligious round tables held in Nicosia in September 2013. In October and November 2014, the Special Rapporteur collected input in the context of his follow-up procedure on steps taken to implement his conclusions and recommendations made to the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, the de facto authorities in the northern part of the island and other stakeholders following his mission in 2012.

 

39 Religious leaders, including the Greek Orthodox Archbishop and the Mufti of Cyprus, with the support of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, intensified efforts during the period under review. On 26 February 2014, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop, the Mufti, the Maronite Archbishop, the Armenian Archbishop and the Patriarchal Latin Vicar in Cyprus issued a joint statement in which they welcomed the political leaders’ expressed determination to resume negotiations in a results-oriented manner, and stressed that religion was still a victim of the protracted conflict.42 In March 2014, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop, on the invitation of the Mufti, officially crossed to the north for the first time ever to participate in a joint interreligious press conference hosted by the Office of the Religious Track. On 13 March 2014, in Geneva, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief participated in a side event of the twenty-fifth session of the Human Rights Council on the theme “Fostering interreligious communication” together with Christian and Muslim leaders from Cyprus, which was hailed as a historic moment by several speakers. The Special Rapporteur emphasized on that occasion that interreligious dialogue was certainly not a luxury, and that the current moves and practical results in Cyprus were quite remarkable. In June 2014, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop welcomed the Mufti in his first- ever visit to all mosques in Nicosia, during which the Mosque of Tahtakale was opened for prayer for the first time since 1963. In October 2014, he hosted the Mufti in Paphos for a two-day visit, during which Turkish Cypriots came to pray at the Mosque of Agia Sophia, open for the first time since 1974.

 

53 During the period under review, there were some positive developments with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights in Cyprus, including progress in the identification and return of the remains of missing persons, an improved climate of interreligious communication and cooperation, and progress in conservation works of cultural heritage sites on the whole island.

 

A/HRC/25/21 22 January 2014

 

28 In a press release of 22 October 2013, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief hailed a key breakthrough in interfaith communication and an agreement that allowed Greek Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders to cross the Green Line. On 16 October 2013, Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia, who had been prevented during the previous 18 months from visiting the northern part of Cyprus and his diocese, was allowed to visit and worship at the monastery Apostolos Andreas on the Karpas peninsula in the north-east of Cyprus. On 18 October 2013, the Grand Mufti of Cyprus crossed the Green Line and held a service at Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque near Larnaca for the first time. This was made possible by an agreement reached with the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who personally facilitated the Grand Mufti’s access to the areas controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.33 On 30 November 2013, Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia also officiated at a church service with reportedly more than 5,000 worshipers on the name day of the monastery Apostolos Andreas.

 

38 As a follow-up to his official visit to Cyprus in 2012, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief took part in the first interreligious round table in the United Nations buffer zone in Nicosia, organized on 12 September 2013 by the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden and in cooperation with OHCHR. As all cooperation between the religious leaders had stopped when the bicommunal conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots escalated 50 years earlier, the Special Rapporteur hailed these positive developments and the improved climate of interreligious communication in Cyprus as a breakthrough for religious freedom on the whole island.45 It also implements one of the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur in his report to the Human Rights Council, in which he called for the promotion of interreligious communication at both the level of religious leaders and the grass-roots level.46 Such cooperation on the whole island indeed creates solid ground on which to address the underlying human rights issues, which could also have a positive impact on the reconciliation process as a whole.

 

58 During the period under review, there were some positive developments on the question of human rights in Cyprus, including measures taken to protect cultural heritage sites on both sides of the island, the launch of the first bicommunal Internet broadcasting facility, an improved climate of interreligious communication and steps to allow Greek Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders to cross the Green Line that divides the island.

 

60 Interreligious communication and cooperation on the whole island might, it is hoped, help to create solid ground on which to address the question of human rights in Cyprus, which could also have a positive impact on the reconciliation process as a whole.

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A/HRC/31/18 23 December 2015

 

42: In Cyprus, the enhanced interreligious communication between Christian and Muslim leaders has led to recent breakthroughs, including the re-opening of churches and mosques that had been inaccessible for decades owing to the protracted conflict on the island. Religious leaders have initiated emergency measures and cleaned up each other’s places of worship, thus creating an atmosphere of goodwill and trust. Some interreligious encounters in Cyprus have been open to participation beyond the traditional religious communities, including Evangelicals, Baha’is, Buddhists and others, thus building awareness on the further emergence of religious pluralism.

 

A/HRC/25/58 26 December 2013

 

13 On 12 September 2013, the Special Rapporteur participated in the first interreligious round table held in Cyprus, organized by the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, and in cooperation with OHCHR.

 

44 (…) In addition, there seems to be an improved climate of interreligious communication and cooperation in Cyprus, which the Special Rapporteur witnessed during the ground-breaking interreligious round tables held in Nicosia in September 2013.

 

Footnote 11 p12: On 22 October 2013 the Special Rapporteur hailed a key breakthrough in interfaith communication reached by a cross section of religious leaders in Cyprus. The agreement allowed Muslim and Greek Orthodox religious leaders to cross the Green Line dividing the island. The Special Rapporteur praised the religious leaders, and encouraged them to create an inclusive institutional framework to promote ongoing communication, such as an interreligious council for peace in Cyprus. The breakthrough became possible after the first interreligious round table held in Cyprus on 12 September 2013, organized by the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, and in cooperation with OHCHR.

A/HRC/34/56/Add.1 March 2017

 

14. The Cyprus conflict is not, per se, a religious conflict. Some religious leaders, however, have committed to working together for human rights, peace and reconciliation through the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, a peacebuilding initiative conducted under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden.

 

15. The Religious Track has led to regular meetings of the five main religious leaders of Cyprus (Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Armenian, Latin and Maronite) and enabled important breakthroughs for human rights, including the right to access sites of religious, cultural and historic significance. For example, within its framework, seven special pilgrimages to the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque of persons of Turkish origin residing in the north of Cyprus have been organized since 2014, as well as pilgrimages of orthodox believers to the cathedral of the Apostolos Barnabas monastery located in the north.1

 

16. Various stakeholders repeatedly expressed concerns, however, about any process enhancing the role of religious leaders vis-à-vis others. They stressed the complete lack of women religious leaders (which was explicitly justified to the Special Rapporteur on religious grounds in one instance by a religious leader), the fact that secularism is also an important part of Cypriot culture for many and the existence of many other factors contributing to shaping cultural identities beyond religion. They feared that giving a prominent political role to religious leaders, even for a positive purpose, could marginalize other voices and identities. The Special Rapporteur suggests continuing support for the Religious Track, but emphasizes that it is equally important to promote actively other tracks, in particular in the fields of education and culture. Those too are critical for reconciliation.