Press Release: International Peace Day 2021

Ring the Bells and Call for Peace, Religious Freedom and Heritage

21 September, 2021

Office of RTCYPP under the  Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden

To mark International Peace Day on 21 September 2021, Office of RTCYPP in Nicosia joined Europa Nostra in Venice to Ring the Bells & Call for Peace & Religious Heritage .

This symbolic initiative hopes to raise the alarm for endangered cultural and religious heritage, highlighting, the important relationship between conflict transformation, peace building and the safeguarding of religious heritage.  It is a wake-up call for the urgency to find a sustainable future for our endangered religious heritage.

The International Day of Peace was established 40 years ago by the General Assembly of the United Nations to encourage non-violence and ceasefire across the world. The 2021 theme of the International Day of Peace is “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”.  Additionally, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of 21 September as International Peace Day.

Religious heritage sites make up a large number of endangered heritages, they are also threatened as targets during conflict, often very difficult to protect and maintain during post conflict.  They are destroyed, demolished, desecrated never allowing the wounds of war to heal.

The vulnerability of religious heritage sites in conflict and post conflict situations and its significance in the transformation of conflict, peace making and peace building has become increasingly apparent, highlighting the need to intensify the urgency to ensure that our shared heritage is protected from these devastating effects.

Since 2010, the RTCYPP is calling on everyone to respect the Christian and Muslim religious heritage of Cyprus and recognize that this plays a key role in the peacebuilding process, fostering a climate of dialogue, understanding and mutual trust.  RTCYPP advocates for the fundamental right to religious freedom or belief and for the right of the faith communities to have free access to administer their places of worship and protect their religious heritage.  The important role that cultural and religious heritage plays in the process of peace-making was recently also recognized and highlighted by the European Council. Through this symbolic initiative and with the support and cooperation of organizations like Europa Nostra, RTCYPP aims to highlight the significance of religious heritage to peace building and the right to religious freedom in the process of enforcing it.

International Peace Day 2021 – Ringing the Bells, Calling for Peace, Religious Freedom and Heritage

Press Release “The Religious Heritage of Cyprus” on Website

Press Release


“The Religious Heritage of Cyprus” on Website

2 August 2021

The Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Cyprus announce the launch of “The Religious Heritage of Cyprus” website

The website contains an interactive map with Christian and Muslim places of worship and cemeteries, including photos and background information, starting with the districts of Larnaca and Kyrenia followed by the rest of the island starting with the district of Nicosia,coming soon.  Presented in a simple, descriptive, and impartial way, it allows everyone interested to witness the current status of the religious heritage of the island and learn more about it.

From the very beginning of the RTCYPP, the Religious Leaders have advocated for the right to freedom of religion or belief and the protection of the shared religious heritage of Cyprus including free access to all sacred spaces to restore, renovate and worship. Since 2011, they have worked together to promote the universal values of religious freedom and invited others to join them.

The Religious Heritage of Cyprus website, launched today, is part of the Religious Heritage of Cyprus  project begun in 2019 headed by Dr Thorsten Kruse from the University of Münster in Germany.  The result was the first ever research publication where Christian and Muslim religious monuments and cemeteries appear side by side, called “The Religious Heritage of Cyprus - a Survey in the Districts of Kyrenia and Larnaca”, mapping out Christian monuments and sites in the Kyrenia district and Muslim monuments and sites in the Larnaca District; funded by the Human Rights Fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and supported onsite by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Nicosia.  The Religious Heritage of Cyprus website hosts all the information held in the booklet, as well as further research, funded by FES, for the district of Nicosia (coming soon), in an interactive map platform available here:

The project is currently coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP endorsed by the Religious Leaders of Cyprus.

Give it a click to learn more about rich religious heritage of the island and join us to protect it and uphold the right to religious freedom.


Statement from the Office of RTCYPP – 26 July 2021

Statement from the Office of RTCYPP

26 July 2021
Religious Leaders of Cyprus, extend sincere thanks, appreciation and their respects to Prof. Dr Talip Atalay as he leaves office as Mufti of Cyprus and wish him all the very best in his new endeavors. Described by all who worked with him as a person with integrity & dignity, honest, genuine, courageous, polite, patient and kind, he will be missed by all who knew him.
Professor Dr Atalay was the first Mufti in the history of Cyprus who was in dialogue with all religious leaders of Cyprus and faith communities in Cyprus. Together with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, he worked tirelessly for ten years, to create understanding, build bridges of trust among the faith communities of the island and advance religious freedom.
Together they invited the Armenian, Maronite and Latin Catholic Religious Leaders of Cyprus to join them on a journey of transformation, where the language of understanding, solidarity, human rights and peace found centre stage.
Inspired by their religious teachings and driven by their strong commitment to bring about positive change, the five religious’ leaders of Cyprus took courageous and unprecedented steps together and were able to bring about concrete and significant steps for religious freedom, human rights, peace and reconciliation.
Since 2011, their united voice and witness were heard, recognized & appreciated by different international institutions, among others, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General and his Good Offices in Cyprus, UNFICYP, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Religion, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, the European Commission, the US Department of State and the diplomatic community in Cyprus. Together they reached out and established relationships with political leaders, UNFICYP, Committee on Missing Persons, UNHCR – Cyprus, local political parties, municipalities, women’s groups, academics and countless non-governmental organizations.
Throughout the process, Dr Atalay remained a man of principle and sincere values, loyal to his own faith and beliefs. Despite the critique, misunderstandings, even attacks he continued to seek truth, teach love and uphold justice.
The Office of the Religious Track of the Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden and all involved join the Religious Leaders of Cyprus to sincerely thank Dr Atalay for his trust, cooperation & leadership and extend best wishes for the future.
Dr Atalay served as Mufti of Cyprus from December 2010 until 17 July 2021 when his service was terminated.

Message of Religious Leaders on the occasion of Eid Al Fitr

Message of Religious Leaders on the occasion of Eid Al Fitr

On the occasion of the feast of Eid Al Fitr, the Christian Leaders of Cyprus wish H.E  Mufti  Talip Atalay as well as all Turkish Cypriots and Muslims living in Cyprus and around the world, a blessed feast.

“May the Grace of Almighty God be with you and grant all your prayers. We are all praying for the sick, the vulnerable and oppressed. Let His Peace rule in our hearts, so that we may seek peace and pursue it.

We extend our sincere greetings and best wishes.  Blessed Eid Al Fitr! Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun ! Eid Mubarak!”

Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus
Khoren, Archbishop of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cyprus
Chorbishop Selim Sfeir, Patriarchal Administrator of the Maronite Archeparchy of Cyprus
Reverend Father Jerzy Kraj, Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Cyprus

RTCYPP Press Release 27.4.2021

RTCYPP Press Release 27.4.2021

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus that make up the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP), jointly express their best wishes for the meetings starting today in Geneva to end the stalemate of the Cyprus peace process and resume the dialogue on the future of the island and pray for them.

“You are meeting at a holy time for Christians and Muslims; Easter and Ramadan, when we in Churches and Mosques all over our island ask for forgiveness, pray for our neighbor and believe in the possibility for a new life.

We assure you that we are following your deliberations closely and pray that God Almighty will guide you at every step.

After decades of conflict, mistrust, division & insecurity, we pray that God will guide you to walk in the path of wisdom and righteousness.

We call on you to pay special attention to the living religious heritage of our island and improve our possibility to access, use and restore our places of worship and cemeteries that have been separated from their worshipers as a result of the decade long unresolved Cyprus conflict.

Religion should not be divided according to political considerations. Christians and Muslims belong to the whole of the island and the religious heritage of Christian and Muslim monuments, next to each other, is a symbol of many hundred years of co-existence, mutual respect, and shared space.  We all have a responsibility to ensure that this mark of civilization is not ending with our generation.

We urge you to embark on a common journey of increased cooperation, dialogue, and empathy between our communities, for memories to heal, trust replacing fear and for hope to grow.”


RTCYPP News 09.03.2021

International Women’s Day 2021

Cypriot Women of Faith Making a Difference in a COVID 19 world

8 March 2021

On 8 March 2021, the Office of RTCYPP under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden, hosted a webinar to mark International Women’s Day, titled “Cypriot Women of Faith Making a Difference in a COVID 19 world”.

The webinar followed an online discussion between the moderator, Mrs. Salpy Eskidjian – Executive Director of the Office of RTCYPP- and four women of faith in leadership in order to highlight & celebrate their efforts in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four panelists were: Mrs Thekla Kallika, whose journey as a mother of 2 children with multiple disabilities gave birth to St Loucas Community, a non-profit, non–governmental organization aimed at setting up the first state-of-the-art Multifunctional Community Centre in Cyprus offering health care, accommodation, support and development to adults and children with disabilities; Mrs. Gosia Chrysanthou, who is currently the Case Supervisor overseeing all field operations dedicated to assisting the vulnerable at Caritas Cyprus; Mrs. Zehra Balman,  who organized her local community to provide food for international students and needy families struggling to make ends meet due to lack of work because of COVID 19 lockdowns; and Ms Antigoni Michael, a young archaeologist who specialized in public engagement for cultural heritage and peace development and the first  Cypriot Youth Ambassador recently selected by Europa Nostra as a European Heritage Youth Ambassador.

It was an honor to welcome an audience comprised of a total of 50 participants, from religious institutions and faith-based organizations from Cyprus and abroad, diplomatic missions, intergovernmental and international organizations such as the OSCE, UN and a number of participants from NGOs and academia from different countries including Ambassadors, Religious Leaders as well as the first woman Force Commander in UN history Major General Kristin Lund of Norway, who urged women to join forces to make a difference in Cyprus as faith is and will be an important motivation for the peace process.

The panelists provided inspiring personal accounts of their experiences setting up and working for these initiatives aiming to raise awareness on dealing with a number of social issues and promoting social cohesion, transitional justice and acceptance in a world gravelly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The webinar was an initiative following the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, set by UN Women, which was “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”



Press Release: Webinar on Violence Against Women & Girls, Freedom of Religion or Belief & Gender Equality

Press Release

Webinar on Violence Against Women & Girls, Freedom of Religion or Belief & Gender Equality

23 November 2020

Two of the world’s top experts on freedom of religion or belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and Dr Nazila Ghanea, Director of International Human Rights Law Programmes of the University of Oxford, will address a webinar, this morning at 11.00 Cyprus time, organized and hosted by the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP), in cooperation with the Office Democratic Institutions & Human Rights of the OSCE (ODIHR/OSCE).

For the first time, the closed webinar will bring together a selection of Cypriot women from faith-based communities and secular civil society organizations that have worked with the RTCYPP during the last ten years.

The discussion aims to initiate a reflection process to understand better and clarify the relationship between freedom of religion or belief and gender equality, held within the framework of the UN OHCHR’s Faith for Rights initiative which RTCYPP supports.

This initiative follows on the historic 2017 Joint Statement of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus condemning all forms of violence against women and girls and marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, starting on the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and ending on the International Human Rights Day.




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