Executive Director of the Office of the Religious Track welcomed Norway’s foreign minister, Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide to the Office of RTCYPP and shared some highlights, achievements and challenges of the RTCYPP during the minister’s visit to the Home for Cooperation and a delicious lunch at the Home Cafe.
RTCYPP News: February 2020
Religious Leaders of Cyprus meet with the Representative of UNHCR Cyprus and discuss the status of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
During their first RTCYPP High Level Meeting of the year, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus welcomed a detailed briefing by Ms Katja Saha, Representative of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) – Cyprus and listened to the current challenges.
Together with the UNHCR Representative, the religious leaders discussed the situation of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Cyprus. They listened to the challenges faced and reflected together on the role of religious leaders to meet the spiritual and religious needs of the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; to raise awareness about the plight of refugees, and ensure that they are welcomed by members of the respective faith communities by educating against xenophobia and assist in their integration into society.
“Welcoming the stranger, honoring the dignity of every person regardless of their faith and treating them with respect are values common to major religions and religious traditions. Religious leaders in Cyprus can play an important role in promoting acceptance and respect and empowering refugees to become part of an inclusive society” stated Ms Saha.
Religious Leaders thanked UNHCR Cyprus for all its efforts for the uprooted and reiterated their joint commitment to advocate for inclusion, understanding and support for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers as they had jointly stated on World Refugee Day 2018
The High Level meeting and briefing session were hosted by Ambassador Hagelberg and moderated by Sweden’s Special Envoy on Religion, Peace-building & Conflict, Peter Weiderud. It took place at the Swedish Residence in Nicosia and was organized and facilitated by the Office of 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."
On 14 February 2020, the religious leaders of the main faith communities of Cyprus, 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 came together to visit His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II.
The religious leaders, who have been praying for His Beatitude’s health, wished him a speedy recovery from his recent operation and reiterated their commitment to stand together and support each other.
During this meeting they adopted the Joint Communique on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Religious Track and committed themselves to continue to work towards building a culture of peace and trust, always defending and promoting human dignity. Furthermore, they reiterated their conviction to work together to uphold and advance the fundamental freedom of religion for all.
Details of activities to mark the 10th Anniversary will be announced and coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP.
“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.”
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.
2019 Christmas & New Year Message from the Mufti of Cyprus
As the Mufti of Cyprus, I would like to convey our Christmas Greetings to the Religious Leaders of Cyprus and all the faith communities celebrating. I pray for healing of the wounds of our island and our peoples. May the New Year be blessed and bring an end to the suffering of all regardless of their ethnic origin and faith.
Let us pray for an end to all conflicts, violence and wars, poverty, hunger and sickness.
Let us all commit to work with one another with renewed conviction for a just and peaceful world where everyone can coexist in safety based on the values of mercy, compassion and forgiveness derived from our religious teachings.
Prof. Dr. Talip Atalay
Mufti of Cyprus
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.
16 Days of Activism for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Today 25 November marks the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, and with that the beginning of the global campaign “16 Days of Activism”, concluding in Human Rights Day 10 December. On these and all other days, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus continue to stand up for women’s rights and the elimination of violence, and reiterate the 2017 Joint Statement Condemning All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.
Autumn High-Level Meeting of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus
19 November 2019
Religious leaders gather at the Swedish Residence in Nicosia for a High Level Meeting of the RTCYPP under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden. Ambassador Hagelberg hosted a very constructive lunch meeting, facilitated by Sweden’s Special Envoy on Religion, Peace-building & Conflict, organized by the Office of RTCYPP.
All five leaders of the faith communities of Cyprus were present. HB Archbishop Chrysostomos II was not able to attend the meeting in person due to health reasons. He was represented by HE Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis. HE Archbishop Soueif was out of the country and was represented by Father Khita.
The meeting made decisions regarding sensitive and crucial items on the agenda of the dialogue. The religious leaders reiterated their resolve to meet more often and work more closely. Ambassador Hagelberg welcomed the decisions of the leaders and reassured them of his governments continued support and accompaniment to the RTCYPP.
Feast of St Chrysostomos
On the occasion of the feast of St Chrysostomos, also the nameday of the Head of the Greek Orthodox Church Of Cyprus, His Excellency Anders Hagelberg, Ambassador of Sweden is warmly welcomed by His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II to the Holy Liturgy at the Cathedral of St John followed by a private audience at the Synodical Hall of the Archbishopric, where the two had an opportunity to discuss the Religious Track. Ambassador Hagelberg congratulated the Archbishop on his name-day and wished him well. His Beatitude expressed his gratitude to the Swedish government for its sincere and long term support to the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) which operates under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden since 2009. Ambassador Hagelberg was accompanied by the Executive Director of the Office for RTCYPP.
Photo credit CNA and Office of RTCYPP.