In honor of U.S. Religious Freedom Day, U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Doherty visited the interfaith language classes coordinated by the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden and participated in the monthly joint session together with Swedish Ambassador Anna Olsson Vrang.
Prior to the language course Ambassadors Doherty and Olsson Vrang had the opportunity to meet and discuss the situation of religious freedom in the island and the efforts of the RTCYPP in this regard.
The United States celebrated Religious Freedom Day last month, to commemorate the legal protections it established over two centuries ago. These protections were later incorporated into the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution and allow all people to practice their faith free from persecution or fear.
The “RTCYPP Language Course” is a new initiative for the religious leaders of Cyprus, where, for the first time, priests, imams, nuns and laypersons working for religious and faith-based institutions in Cyprus come together every week to study Greek and Turkish language. The course takes place at the Home for Cooperation in the UN-controlled Buffer Zone. It includes monthly joint sessions, which provide the participants an opportunity to get to know each other, learn about each other’s traditions, and practice their new language skills.
This is the second term of the language course. The pilot phase of the program ended in December 2017 with a strong endorsement by all involved for the course to continue.
1 February 2018
Today marks the beginning of the annual World Interfaith Harmony week, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.
In the resolution A/RES/65/5 adopted on 20 October 2010, the UN General Assembly established the first week of February every year as the world interfaith harmony week, acknowledging that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace.
On this occasion the Office of RTCYPP - The Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden- reiterates its strong commitment to continue to work with and accompany the joint efforts of the five religious leaders of Cyprus and the different faith communities in the island for mutual respect, coexistence and harmony.
The aim of the World Interfaith Harmony Week is to provide a focal point from which all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities. Among others, the resolution recognizes the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people. The UN General Assembly encourages all States to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world's churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship.
Since 2009, the Office of RTCYPP encourages, facilitates and serves the religious leaders' dialogue and their joint efforts for human rights, peace and reconciliation. Through their dialogue, the religious leaders of Cyprus are making important breakthroughs for religious freedom and human rights in Cyprus fostering cross-community communication and cooperation contributing constructively to the Cyprus peace process.
3 December 2017
Office of RTCYPP to highlight the joint efforts and united voice of the religious leaders of Cyprus against all forms of attacks, terrorism and violence including violence against women and girls at the Rabat+5 Symposium, to take place from 6-7 December in Rabat, Morocco. Invited by the UN OHCHR, executive coordinator of the RTCYPP will talk about the unprecedented initiative with the religious leaders of Cyprus, different faith communities and secular civil society organizations, for the promotion and respect for human rights and religious freedom in Cyprus.
The Symposium, co-organized by the Government of Morocco and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as a follow-up to the Rabat Plan of Action and the Beirut Declaration on “Faith for Rights”, will be commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
In addition to taking stock of the use of the Rabat Plan of Action since 2012, the symposium will conduct an analysis of priority areas, outlining good practices, based on the presentation of existing concrete projects in many parts of the world, and defining means of support to existing and new “Faith for Rights” projects at the local level, in complementarity to the Rabat Plan of Action.
The OHCHR envisages that an inventory of relevant actors and projects would be established in order to help identifying existing gaps, define capacity building approaches and linking the dots and hopes that the inventory might also strengthen the capacities of the existing UN human rights mechanisms by providing them with accurate and up-to-date analysis on environments, dynamics and early warning signs of incidents leading to sectarian conflicts and violence committed in the name of religion..
Office of RTCYPP supports the UN OHCHR “Faith for Rights” initiative and proud to serve as the platform to introduce and promote it in Cyprus.
20 November 2017
Office of the RTCYPP was invited to share its experience and lessons learnt with the religious leaders of Cyprus working together for human rights, conflict transformation and reconciliation at a roundtable discussion on ”Perspectives on the Role of Religion in Diplomacy, Foreign Policy and International Affairs” taking place in Byblos, Lebanon from 18-19 November 2017. Organized and hosted by the Swedish Institute Alexandria and Forward Thinking the deliberations aimed at building on the series of Discussion Papers by the Helsinki Policy Forum on “Religious Literacy, Foreign Policy and Diplomacy”.
The Round Table facilitated a discussion around religious literacy and diplomacy providing a fascinating dialogue between different perspectives exploring a framework that would increase religious literacy in foreign policy and international affairs. The deliberations raised awareness and increased understanding of the complexity of the different perspectives on how religious and non-religious worldviews in society can accommodate one another and how this informs policy-making.
The meetings offered a unique opportunity for the Cyprus experience to be shared and discussed with regional and international experts, practitioners and diplomats including senior parliamentarians, political leaders and government officials from the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe including Turkey.
Representing the RTCYPP were Mufti Talip Atalay of Cyprus, Archbishop Khoren Toghramadjian of the Armenian Church of Cyprus and the Executive Coordinator and Facilitator of the RTCYPP, Salpy Eskidjian.
Since 2014, the Helsinki Policy Forum coordinated by Forward Thinking, facilitates informal discussions on identified issues of concern in the Middle East , North Africa and Gulf regions aimed at deepening understanding and promoting enlightened policy responses.
Swedish Institute Alexandria (SwedAlex) was established following an agreement between the governments of Sweden and Egypt in 1999 and was inaugurated, on the 3rd of October 2000 by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and Egypt, Ms A. Lindh, and Mr A. Moussa.
The Swedish Institute Alexandria (SwedAlex) is an autonomous part of Sweden's Foreign Service. Its main goal is to promote dialogue between Europe and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) in order to make Europeans and people in the region better understand each other. It focuses on the following focus areas:
Transition for Democracy and Development
Culture, Religion and pluralism in political change
Sustainability, Climate Change and investing in the future
Women Rights and Gender Equality
The overarching goal is to promote peace and pluralism through dialogue and creating mutual relationships between the people and cultures of Sweden and Egypt on the one hand and Europe and Middle East and North Africa on the other hand.
Forward Thinking is a proactive, demand-driven, facilitative organization that works:
§ To promote a more inclusive peace process in the Middle East.
§ To facilitate political dialogues in, and between, the Arab/Muslim and Western worlds.
§ To promote in the UK greater understanding and confidence between the diverse grassroots Muslim communities and the wider society including the Media and the British establishment.
The Helsinki Policy Forum (HPF), established in 2014 with the financial support of the Finnish Government, is an integrated part of Forward Thinking. The HPF aims to respond to the current context and provide a secure space for an honest exchange of views on the challenges and opportunities facing the MENA/Gulf region and Western governments.
12 November 2017
In the spirit of togetherness, cooperation and mutual respect all religious leaders of Cyprus gathered on Sunday 12 November at 17.30 at a reception invited and hosted by the Archbishopric of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus on the occasion of the feast of St Chrysostom, also the name day of the Primate the of Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. This was the first high-level gathering of the religious leaders since June 2017, organised and coordinated by the Office of the RTCYPP.
The delegation was led by H.E Talip Atalay, Mufti of Cyprus together with H.E Archbishop Khoren Doghramadjian of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cyprus, H.E Archbishop Soueif, Maronite Church of Cyprus and Rev Jerzy Kraj, Latin Patriarchal Vicar and of the Apostolic Nunciature in Cyprus accompanied by Mr Peter Weiderud, moderator of RTCYPP and Director of the Swedish Institute Alexandria. They were joined by Reverend Telis Tsinoglu, President of the Synod of the Evangelical Church of Cyprus, Reverent Father Zacharia El-Anba Pola of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Cyprus, Reverend Anders Berglund and Deacon Eva Berglund from the Church of Sweden in Cyprus.
H.E. Ambassador Anna Olsson Vrang of Sweden and Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations and Chief of Mission H.E Ms Elizabeth Spehar honoured the gathering with their presence and participation.
Following the invitation of the Swedish Ambassador, the religious leaders of Cyprus agreed to hold a high level meeting of the RTCYPP on 16 November 2017 at the Residence of the Swedish Ambassador.
5 October 2017
A new joint project of the religious leaders of Cyprus, initiated and convened by the Office of RTCYPP, to provide an opportunity for members of the clerical order and laypersons to meet each other and learn Greek and Turkish for the very first time in Cyprus.
Office of RTCYPP Convenes Third Round Table for Human Rights in Cyprus with representatives of faith communities and partner civil society organisations. Read the press release here.
21 September 2017
On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP Salpy Eskidjian joined the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General and Head of Mission Elisabeth Spehar, UNFICYP Force Commander Major General Mohammad Humayun Kabir, UNHCR Country Representative, Damtew Dessalegne and programme coordinator of PeacePlayers International/Cyprus, Stephanie Nichols to commemorate Peace Day at UNFICYP Headquarters in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Present at the moving ceremony were staff of the UN Secretary General’s Good Offices in Cyprus, Military and Civilian members of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The moving event included a candle lighting ceremony with one-minute silence in honour of all lives lost in conflict.
The theme of this year’s peace day is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” focussing on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world to show support for refugees and migrants.
The Office of RTCYPP joined the United Nations TOGETHER campaign -Respect, Safety and Dignity for All, echoing the 2014 & 2015 Joint Statements of the Religious leaders of Cyprus where they address the plight of growing numbers of refugees throughout the region, reiterating their deep compassion and prayer for those risking their lives daily, facing hostilities and death. The RTCYPP 2017 Peace Day initiative in three languages encouraged all faith communities in Cyprus to learn more and engage in the call of the Peace Day showing support for refugees and migrants in their own communities and elsewhere.
11 September 2017
Ambassador Anna Olsson Vrang of Sweden met with the Turkish Cypriot community leader, Mr Mustafa Akinci on 11 September, 2017 to reiterate her Government’s strong commitment to the RTCYPP which is under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden and its continued support with the religious leaders efforts for religious freedom, peace and reconciliation in Cyprus. Ambassador Olsson Vrang also expressed her appreciation that all five religious leaders have reassured her of their commitment to peacebuilding and will continue their meetings and cooperation.
The meeting was attended by Mr Erhan Ercin, Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani and Ms Salpy Eskidjian.
8 September 2017
Efforts for the Joint Statement of the Religious leaders of Cyprus on Violence Against Women acknowledged by Swedish MFA 2017 Award
The Office of RTCYPP is happy to share the news that the Embassy of Sweden in Nicosia has been awarded the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs “2017 prize for the work on the Government’s feminist foreign policy in the EU region“ recognizing its efforts to work with and strengthen women’s rights and participation in the Cyprus peace process for a unification of the island. The prize also acknowledges, among others, the efforts undertaken for the Religious Leaders of Cyprus to adopt their unprecedented joint statement condemning all forms of violence against women and girls.
“The Office of RTCYPP is grateful that the 2017 prize to the Swedish Embassy in Nicosia recognizes the significance of its efforts with the religious leaders’ of Cyprus for women and girls. The statement adopted in 2017 to jointly condemn all acts of violence against women and girls was a historic first step forward.” Said Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Coordinator of RTCYPP. “Together with the religious leaders and women’s organizations in Cyprus, the Office of RTCYPP will continue to work hard to turn these words into action.”
On March 8, 2017, the religious leaders of Cyprus, together with Margot Wallström, Foreign Minster of Sweden and Elizabeth Spehar, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, released their first ever-joint statement which was presented at a ceremony organized and hosted by the Office of RTCYPP at the Ledra Palace Hotel in the UN Controlled Buffer Zone in the presence of the leadership of different faith communities, civil society and women’s organizations, clerics, political parties and municipal leaders as well as members of the diplomatic corps, the EU, UNFICYP, UNDP-PFF and the media. Read the statement.
20 June 2017
On the occasion of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the religious leaders of Cyprus were guests of honour at an Iftar dinner reception with diplomatic community in Cyprus hosted by the Ambassador of The Islamic Republic of Iran in support of inter religious dialogue. H.E. Archbishop Khoren of the Armenian Orthodox Church, addressed the event and thanked the Ambassador on behalf of the religious leaders and the Office of RTCYPP.
We must transform the way we view what sets us apart. The event echoed the shared sentiments of the minster of foreign affairs of Iran - "Each and every one of us have a duty, as individuals, to be the change that we want to see in the world....The holy Quran emphatically commands - whoever kills a soul (...) it is as if he had slain human kind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he has saved human kind entirely. ...." "Unless we begin to see our differences as something to celebrate and a source of strength, they will remain open to be exploited as a point of weakness and division.”
15 June 2017
The Religious leaders of Cyprus met with the General Coordinators of the Bi-communal Technical Committees Ambassador Andreas Pirishis and Dr. Meltem Onurkan Samani within the framework of the peace-building initiative known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP). Dr Onurkan Samani also serves as Adviser to the Turkish Cypriot leader for Political Affairs and History. Ambassador of Sweden, Mrs. Anna Olsson Vrang, hosted the meeting at the Swedish Residence in Nicosia.
The Religious leaders warmly welcomed the two coordinators and thanked the Ambassador for hosting the meeting, which highlighted the shared main aim of the RTCYPP and the technical committees for confidence-building across the two main communities of the island, cultivating a culture of coexistence and unity. The religious leaders reiterated their commitment to work together to advocate for religious freedom and human rights in Cyprus. They expressed their gratitude to the two general coordinators for their cooperation and their willingness to support their joint efforts.
Both coordinators expressed their appreciation to the religious leaders for their commitment to work together to promote respect, peace and reconciliation in Cyprus and expressed their willingness to ensure that these efforts were acknowledged and further strengthened. The meeting was organized and facilitated by the Office of RTCYPP.
11 June 2017
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.
5 May 2017
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
21 April 2017
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.
12 April 2017
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.
9 April 2017
The Office of RTCYPP express our deep sorrow and extend our sincere condolences for the families of the victims, for the wounded and to HH Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church for the vicious, hateful attack on innocent Christian worshipers on Palm Sunday at St George (Mar Girgis) Coptic church in Tanta and in front of St Mark´s church in Alexandria, Egypt.
8 April 2017
Message on the recent attack in Stockholm from the Mufti of Cyprus Dr. Talip Atalay
İsveç’in başkenti Stokholm’de dün (7 Nisan) meydana gelen terör saldırısı nedeniyle can kayıpları ve yaralanmalarolduğu büyük üzüntüyle öğrenilmiştir.
Öncelikle bu terör olayını şahsım ve temsil ettiğim camia adına en güçlü şekilde kınıyorum. Daha önce de dünyanın çeşitli noktalarında meydana gelen benzer saldırılar, terörün hedefinin insanlığın tamamının huzur ve refahını yok etmek olduğunu göstermiştir. Bu son saldırıyla terör can alırken bireysel, dinsel, ırksal hedef gözetmediğini bir kez daha ortaya koymuştur.
Terörle mücadelede evrensel çapta anlayış birliğinin sağlanacağına, terörün insanlığı esaret altına alamayacağına olan inancımı belirtir, Stokholm’de meydana gelen terör saldırısını bir kez daha kınar, İsveçlilerin acısını paylaşır, hayatını kaybedenlere başsağlığı, yaralılara acil şifalar dilerim.
Prof. Dr. Talip Atalay
Din İşleri Başkanı
22 March 2017
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.
15 March 2017
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.
14 March 2017
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.
8 March 2017
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.” Read the statement>>
--- 2016 ---
25 December 2016
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
Nicosia, Christmas 2016
† Youssef Soueif Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus
24 December 2016
Dr Talip Atalay Mufti of Cyprus issues a Christmas message in Greek.
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
9 December 2016
The Office of RTCYPP, which facilitates the dialogue of the religious leaders of Cyprus, released the first ever joint appeal on the missing persons from the religious leaders of Cyprus at Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia. The event was hosted in support of the work of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP). Watch the video in three languages. Read more>>
16 November 2016
RTCYPP facilitation team attends the 13th round table of the Trilateral Strategy Group TSG13, in Stockholm, focusing on Turkey after the coup attempt; Cyprus, the global disorder, migration crisis, Brexit, USA after the elections, Russia and the Middle East. The TSG is a multi year project undertaken by the German Marshall Fund of the USA in partnership with Turkish Industry and Business Association, Koc Holding and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. The round table includes 40 experts from the private and public sectors to discuss critical issues affecting Turkey, the EU and the USA.
24 October 2016
Office of RTCYPP warmly congratulates the Association of Historical Research &Dialogue( AHDR) for receiving the prestigious Max van Der Stoel Award at the official ceremony today for its" Sustained commitment to building multi-cultural, multi-faith society, promoting mutual respect and diversity, and including all of the communities of Cyprus."
25 September 2016
Executive Coordinator attends the first "Religion and Diplomacy" conference hosted by the U.S Department of State Office of Religion and Global Affairs (S/RGA )from 26-27 September 2016 in Washington DC, USA.
The two day event explored ways in which religion matters to foreign policy across a range of regional and functional priorities. The conference is bringing together 250 government officials, scholars, religious practitioners and community leaders and representatives from civil society. The S/RGA works to advise US State Secretary Kerry on the intersection of religion and key foreign policy issues, and support US diplomats in engaging religious actors and assessing religious dynamics around the world.
25 August 2016
Office of RTCYPP expresses its sincere appreciation and gratitude to H.E. Archbishop Nareg of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cyprus for his immense contribution to the Religious Track, excellent leadership, sincere collaboration and cooperation with all the religious leaders of Cyprus, in particular his genuine commitment to dialogue, human rights, peace and the reunification of Cyprus. Unfortunately , for personal reasons, Archbishop Nareg ends his tenure in Cyprus today, to return back to the headquarters of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. Office of RTCYPP is joined by the religious leaders of Cyprus in wishing His Eminence all the best and looking forward to continued friendship and cooperation in his new capacity.
15 July 2016
In the wake of yet another barbaric act of terror against innocent people, this time in Nice, France, Office of RTCYPP expresses its deep grief and condemnation, reiterating its commitment to continue to work with the the religious leaders and faith communities of Cyprus for human rights and peace, united against all forms of violence and terror.
"We, the religious leaders of the five main faith communities of Cyprus, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite and Latin Catholic" 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." November 2015
8 July 2016
The 6 month report of the UN Secretary General is released to members of the UN Security Council.
On the RTCYPP and on the prohibition and restrictions to the right to worship announced by the Turkish Cypriot authorities in May 2016 , the UN Secretary General states the following:
“In May, the Turkish Cypriot authorities proposed policy changes that, if implemented, would lead to a reduction in approvals for religious services in the north of the island. In an effort to ensure continued access to religious sites, my Special Adviser and Special Representative intervened in support of access to all religious sites and a continued increase in the number of religious services being conducted by Greek Cypriots in the north. UNFICYP will continue to monitor this issue closely, and to advocate for freedom of worship for people of all faiths across the island”, the report said.
In his observations, while he commends the ongoing dialogue among the leaders of the religious communities, he urges both sides “[to support that dialogue by ensuring that the trend continues towards full 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.”
16 June 2016 - “Know your Neighbour: Respect One Another”
Office of RTCYP launches a new initiative “ Know Your Neighbour: Respect One Another”- an informative and educational program for the public including state officials, policy makers, clerics and citizens.
Part of living together is to know and respect each other’s cultural, literary, musical, religious traditions and more. In the case of religion, knowing what is holy and significant for the other enhances respect for the other. Respecting each other’s differences contributes to the promotion and protection of religious freedom and belief, a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We are always asked what and when are the significant religious holidays celebrated by different faith traditions in Cyprus and their significance, “ says Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP, “ We have repeatedly witnessed policies or practices of violations of religious freedom in Cyprus, sometimes simply because of lack of knowledge or understanding on what is significant or even holy for the other.”
30 May 2016
Office of RTCYPP hosts a thanksgiving farewell reception, under the high patronage of the religious leaders of Cyprus, in honour of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Chief of Mission of UNFICYP Lisa M. Buttenheim, H.E. the Ambassador of Finland Anu Saarela, UNFICYP Force Commander Major General Kristin Lund and H.E. the Ambassador of Sweden Klas Gierow. Read the press release