RTCYPP News 11.6.17

Respecting Freedom of Religion Unites!

Hundreds of Greek Orthodox faithful warmly welcome passionate messages of love, forgiveness and unity by Father Ioannou and Imam Küçük, gathered together at the Cathedral of Apostolos Barnabas near Salamis on June 11, 2017 to celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas, the founding apostle of the Church of Cyprus. The clerics publicly acknowledged the importance of the religious leaders’ dialogue for peace. They reiterated their commitment to continue to work together and support each other.
Father Ioannis representing Archbishop Chrysostomos II is the chancellor of the Archbishopric and and Abbot of the Apostolos Barnabas Monastery, currently turned into museum by the Turkish Cypriot community. Imam Mustafa Küçük representing Mufti Atalay is the regional responsible Muslim cleric in Famagusta. The dialogue of the religious leaders of Cyprus is facilitated by the Office of RTCYPP under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden in Nicosia.

RTCYPP News 5.5.17

Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP and Aristos Tsiartas, Head of the Anti-Discrimination Body of the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Cyprus will be speaking about religious freedom, religious and cultural dialogue with the journalist Yiannis Xenofondos on Πάμε Ευρώπη – Let’s Go to Europe

A weekly programme, in Greek, about the European Parliament, its programmes and activities, as well as that of different EU Parliamentarians from Cyprus and other member states with the aim to inform and encourage the engagement of civil society. The theme chosen for the month of May is Intercultural Dialogue, Cultural diversity, its challenges and opportunities to European citizens. You can watch the interview on Friday, May 5th at 09:30 on Sigma TV

RTCYPP News 21.4.17

HE Archbishop Khoren of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cyprus received HE Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis, head of the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the European Union in Brussels, president of the Synodical Committee on Monument and Christian Art and Assistant Bishop of HB Archbishop Chrysostomos II for a bilateral meeting organized by the Office of RTCYPP. HE Bishop Porfyrios warmly welcomed HE Archbishop Khoren to Cyprus. The two religious leaders had the opportunity to discuss issues of common concern and reflect together urgent matters on the table of dialogue of the religious leaders. Bishop Porfyrios was accompanied by Father Savvas Hadjionas. The meeting took place at the Armenian Prelature in Nicosia and was facilitated by the Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP, Salpy Eskidjian.

RTCYPP News 12.4.17

The Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP and facilitator of the religious leaders’ dialogue in Cyprus, participated in a fruitful and much needed discussion on women, peace and security organized and hosted by the Ambassador of Sweden, Ms Anna Olsson Vrang and the special representative of the UN Secretary General Ms Elisabeth Spehar.

RTCYPP News 22.3.17

Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP participated in an inspiring pre-conference workshop on gender equality and peace in Cyprus, titled “Cypriot Women’s Involvement in Political Decisions: Their Achievements and Challenges” invited and organized by the Center for Women’s Studies of the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Famagusta, which preceded a three-day international conference on gender, war & peace.

The workshop looked at past efforts, activities and achievements of Cypriot women on gender equality and peace-building processes. It also highlighted obstacles and challenges in struggles for peace in Cyprus and gave an opportunity for the participants to make suggestions on strategies to overcome the challenges. The results of the workshop discussion will be presented at the 6th International Conference on “Gender, War, Conflict and Peace”, organized by Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU), Center for Women’s Studies, from 23-25 March, 2016. Invited to the workshop were members of the Technical Committee on Gender Equality (TCGE), civil society peace builders, activists and scholars to discuss Cypriot women’s efforts, achievements and struggles for gender equality and peace in Cyprus.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General & Head of UNFICYP, Ms. Elizabeth Spehar was one of the speakers alongside Ms. Lesley Abdela, a women’s rights and representation expert, Dr. Umut Bozkurt, a member of the Gender Advisory Team (GAT) and the TCGE and assistant professor at EMU, Ms. Magda Zenon, ‎communicator, networker, activist & broadcaster and Ms. Sevgül Uludağ – investigative journalist and peace activist.

In November 2016, the Executive Coordinator had participated in a preparatory workshop in Nicosia, on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Cyprus followed by a conference on “Pathways towards sustainable peace: Building United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 into the Cyprus context” which aimed at developing a national action plan on UNSCR1325 for Cyprus. The workshops expanded on each of the four pillars of UNSCR 1325 and developed a set of good practices to promote women, peace and security agenda as an integral part of the Cyprus peace building process.

Cypriot women continue to face challenges from low public participation, inadequate protection from sexual violence, and lack of funding for women’s organizations. Women have been severely underrepresented in decision-making roles during the peace process between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus has ratified UNSCR 1325 but does not yet have a National Action Plan for its implementation for the entire island. GAT together with PRIO in 2012 published GAT’s recommendations on how to implement UNSCR 1325 in Cyprus. For the first time in Cyprus history, the five main religious leaders of Cyprus, working together under the framework of the RTCYPP, recently adopted a joint statement condemning all forms of violence against women and girls.

With the UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security adopted in 2000, the UN Security Council for the first time publicly acknowledged the role of women not only as victims of conflict but as actors that can bring about change and transform violent conflict. The UNSCR urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN peace and security efforts. The resolution is based on four pillars for implementation; prevention, protection, participation, relief and recovery.

RTCYPP News 15.3.17

Delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden in Cyprus

Religious leaders of Cyprus, H.E. Mufti Talip Atalay, Rev. Father Savvas Hadjionas of the Synodical Committee on Monuments and Christian Art, representing H.B. Archbishop Chrysostomos II and Ms. Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP & facilitator of the religious leaders’ dialogue in Cyprus, met with the delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden visiting Cyprus from 13 to 15 March 2017.
The religious leaders reiterated their sincere gratitude to the Government of Sweden for supporting the Office of RTCYPP to initiate and undertake the unprecedented religious leaders’ dialogue for human rights and peace in Cyprus. They acknowledged the fact that before the support and facilitation of the Office of RTCYPP together with the Ambassador of Sweden, the religious leaders of the Christian and Muslim faith communities of Cyprus had never cooperated all together nor met one another. Today thanks to the Swedish initiative the current religious leaders of Cyprus meet regularly, work together, can even speak in one voice and advocate for the right of the other since 2011 without any interruption.
Office of RTCYPP greatly appreciates the precious opportunity provided by the Swedish Ambassador in Nicosia, H.E Anna Olsson Vrang to meet with colleagues from Stockholm and the extensive time the delegation dedicated to the RTCYPP despite their short stay and busy agenda in Cyprus.
The delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden included: Ms. Johanna Strömquist, Head of the Unit for Western Balkans, Turkey and Cyprus at the EU Department, Ms. Wiktoria Dagerås Wittboldt, Deputy Director of the Security Policy Section at the UN Policy Department and Mr. Aleksander Mojsiejuk, the new Desk Officer for Cyprus at the EU Department.

RTCYPP News 14.3.17

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus warmly welcome newly appointed Armenian Archbishop H.E Khoren Toghramadjian to Cyprus and to the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden.
“I am thankful to God for this warm welcome and happy to start my first days in Cyprus together with my spiritual brothers, the esteemed religious leaders of Cyprus, meeting within the context of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Swedish Embassy.” stated Archbishop Khoren. “I sincerely appreciate their welcome and look forward to our cooperation. I am thankful to the Swedish Government for all their support and the Office of RTCYPP for facilitating our dialogue and joint efforts for religious freedom and peace, which we are committed to as a Church”.
H.E. Archbishop Khoren will formally take over his responsibilities as the patriarchal representative of H.H Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church and as the Primate of the Armenian Church of Cyprus, as of 20 March 2017. His first official public appearance in Cyprus was his participation at the release ceremony of the religious leaders’ joint statement condemning violence against women and girls, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, organized and hosted by the Office of RTCYPP, at the Ledra Palace Hotel in the UN controlled Buffer Zone in Nicosia.
The Office of RTCYPP under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden extends its warm welcome to His Eminence and congratulations to the Armenian Church and community in Cyprus.

RTCYPP News 8.3.17

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus release their Joint Statement Condemning Violence Against Women and Girls at Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia.

The event brought together the religious leaders of Cyprus, leadership of the different faith communities and civil society, clerics, women’s organizations and political parties, municipal leaders of Nicosia, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the UN, the EU and the media.
“We are delighted that for the first time in the history of Cyprus the religious leaders of the Church of Cyprus, the Muftiate, the Armenian, Maronite and Latin Churches of Cyprus agreed to jointly address issues of violence against women,” said Salpy Eskidjian, the Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP and one of its co-founders. “This is the third significant joint statement we have facilitated for the religious leaders of Cyprus since we initiated the religious leaders’ dialogue in 2009, under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden in Nicosia, known as the RTCYPP. “We are deeply honored to work with them in this regard and encouraged with their commitment to continued dialogue and peacebuilding.”

RTCYPP News 25.12.16

Christmas Message of the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus H.E. Youssef Soueif

“And He will be called…Prince of Peace!”
(Isaiah 9:6)

With faith and Joy we celebrate today the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Word of God, whom in the fulfilment of time, God the father sent Him to us, to be born from the Holy Spirit in the womb of Virgin Mary, becoming human yet without sin, making His dwelling among us, living with us, amidst us.
Yes, today we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace as it was written in Isaiah “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6)

What a beautiful prophecy, as through Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, he was proclaimed by God the Father, a beloved son, taking upon His shoulders the sins of the world, our sins, becoming Lord and Saviour and reconciling us with God to start His dwelling in us, in our hearts, minds and souls.
And when at the cross He was lifted high, He proclaimed: “It is finished” meaning “paid in full”, declaring the debt owed by mankind to God the father, was wiped away completely and forever.
On the cross, He made us a New Creation, giving us a Covenant of Sonship by sending forth the Holy Spirit into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”, making us as St Peter said “A Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people belonging to God”. (1/2 -9)

We are His instruments on earth, Peace makers and Keepers as St Mathew said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”(5/9)
We are the salt and the light, instruments of Love and Reconciliation, reflecting Him in our Lives, contributing to the World we are dwelling in, this world He has created and redeemed through His Incarnation, Baptism, His death and Resurrection, celebrating God’s marvellous plan that He has put forth before the creation of the World, every time we participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love and Peace, presented to us by the Prince of Peace, thousands of years ago in the city of Jerusalem.
Today indeed we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, as the angels proclaimed when announcing His birth to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth Peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Lk 2:14)

This peace is the peace that was intended to be upon our World, and is destroyed every time we look around or watch the news. We are surrounded on a daily basis with a combination of conflicts, diseases, natural disasters environmental crises, wars, hatred and hardships. We live in a world where our eyes can hardly see His Peace and love, a world where humans became numbers more than people created on God’s image.
And one might wonder if this peace proclaimed in the Bible, was meant to be an inner one not affected by the circumstances around? A Peace that is not shaken by circumstances and hardships, a Peace that is rooted in the hearts of those who worship Him, living for Him, working through Him, forgiving, building, loving and proclaiming His love.

A peace built on the prophecy in Isaiah that says “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.’ (7:14)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
God is with us, is the heart of our Christmas, is the whole history, the history of a living Peace that dwells in us despite all circumstances that surround us, as we know, God is with us and we are not alone.
In wars? Not alone. In persecutions? Not alone. In sickness? Not alone. In struggles? Not alone. In death? Not alone. Immanuel Himself is with us as St Paul said: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7)
This is our real Peace; this is our real celebration.
And as a token of Peace taken from the Prince of Peace, we pray today for our wounded Middle East, the bleeding countries of Iraq, Syria and every country suffering hatred and division. We pray specifically for the reunification of our beloved Cyprus who was the first destination of St Paul’s long journeys, proclaiming God’s Peace to the world, God’s Love and Reconciliation.

Happy Christmas. May His peace always dwell in us and shine through us. Amen
Merry Christmas

Nicosia, Christmas 2016

† Youssef Soueif
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

RTCYPP News 24.12.16

Dr Talip Atalay Mufti of Cyprus issues a Christmas message in Greek.

Μήνυμα Χριστουγέννων
Εμείς οι Μουσουλμάνοι στις 12 Δεκεμβρίου γιορτάσαμε την γέννηση του Προφήτη μας και ο κόσμος του Χριστιανισμού εορτάζει αυτές τις ημέρες την γέννηση του Ιησού Χριστού. Εύχομαι χρόνια πολλά σε όλους τους Χριστιανούς. Σ’ αυτή την περίοδο, παραμένοντας πιστοί στα μηνύματα του Προφήτη Μωάμεθ και του Ιησού Χριστού, θα πρέπει να συνεργαστούμε για να εξασφαλίσουμε την ειρήνη, την αλληλοκατανόηση και τον αλληλοσεβασμό. Αξίες που θα μας δώσουν την ευκαιρία να συμβιώσουμε ειρηνικά στην περιοχή μας και στον κόσμο, με σεβασμό στην πίστη του κάθε ανθρώπου. Ο κοινός μας στόχος είναι να σιγήσει το κλάμα όλων των ανθρώπων, κυρίως των παιδιών, των μητέρων και των ηλικιωμένων, ανεξάρτητα από την εθνική καταγωγή και την πίστη τους, αλλά και η υπεράσπιση των δικαιωμάτων και των υπόλοιπων ζωντανών αυτού του πλανήτη. Αυτές τις ημέρες θα πρέπει να θυμόμαστε ότι η προσευχή δεν είναι αρκετή για την επίτευξη αυτού του στόχου. Αυτές τις ημέρες έχουμε την ιστορική ευθύνη και υποχρέωση να μετατρέψουμε σε πράξη τις ευχές μας. Με την ευχή ότι θα σταθούμε στο ύψος των περιστάσεων…

Δρ. Ταλίπ Αταλάϊ 
Μουφτής της Κύπρου