On the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr, a special pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke, organised and led by the Mufti of Cyprus took place on 27 June 2017, for 900 faithful of Turkish origin that cannot otherwise cross the buffer zone in the divided island of Cyprus.
The head of the Church of Cyprus H.B. Archbishop Chrysostomos II through his representative, Archimandrite Rev. Ioannis Ioannou of Apostolos Barnabas Monastery sent greetings of peace and love to the Mufti of Cyprus. Father Ioannis was joined by Father Jerzy Kraj, Latin Patriarchal Vicar and Representative of the Apostolic Nunciature in Cyprus. Both clerics extended their best wishes to all Muslims living in Cyprus on the occasion of the feast of Ramazan Bayram. “We pray for a Cyprus where Christians and Muslims can once again know each others traditions and feasts and celebrate them together like they used to” said Father Ioannis Ioannou at the end of the prayer service.
The Mufti and the pilgrims present warmly received the Christian religious leaders and the Office of RTCYPP who came to express their best wishes.
“Today is one of the fruits of the religious leaders dialogue and cooperation for which we are both committed to and most grateful for.” said Mufti Talip Atalay. “Before we initiated the RTCYPP the religious leaders of Cyprus had not met for decades, nor did they know each other, now they tell each other that they are brothers and stand up for each other.” said Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP who serves as the main facilitator of the religious leaders dialogue in Cyprus. “With their united presence here today, the religious leaders of Cyprus as well as the pilgrims send another positive message that Christians and Muslims of Cyprus respect religious freedom and each other and if given the chance they can live together again.” Archbishops of the Armenian and Maronite Churches of Cyprus sent their messages of support and best wishes for the Bayram via the Office of RTCYPP.
The special pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke is the result of an unprecedented agreement between the religious leaders of Cyprus, namely H.B. Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus and the Mufti of Cyprus H.E. Dr Talip Atalay. The agreement was reached in 2014 within the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP) and has had the full support of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, H.E. Mr Kasoulides.
The special pilgrimages organised by the Mufti of Cyprus are coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP and facilitated by UNFICYP. This was the 9th pilgrimage within this framework agreement since 2014.
Ramazan Bayram or Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that takes place annually. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, to Prophet Muhammad according to Islamic belief. For 30 days, followers of Islam pray and refrain from bad behavior — including cursing, gossiping or fighting — and impure thoughts. Fasting and focusing on prayer and charity during Ramadan is meant to purify the body and spirit and bring the faithful closer to God; fasting during the month is also one of the five pillars of Islam.
The special pilgrimage is a joint initiative, between H.B. Archbishop Chrysostomos II and H.E. Mufti Dr Talip Atalay, for up to 1000 pilgrims of Turkish origin, who reside in the northern part of Cyprus and cannot, otherwise visit and pray at Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca.
The agreement for the special pilgrimages to Hala Sultan Tekke annually (Eid al-Fitr -Ramazan Bayram, Eid al-Adha -Qurban Bayram and Mawlid-al Nabi -Mevlid) was reached in 2014 within the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP), supported by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, H.E Mr Kasoulides as well as the political leaders of Cyprus.
The special pilgrimages are organized by the Muftiate of Cyprus and coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP, facilitated by UNFICYP. Since 2014, eight special pilgrimages have taken place, providing up to 8000 pilgrims the opportunity to visit and pray at Hala Sultan Tekke.
In 2015 the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus sent greetings of peace and best wishes to the Mufti and faithful at Hala Sultan on the occasion of the feast of Eid al-Adha through his representative who joined the special pilgrimage for the first time ever and was warmly welcomed. In 2016 the Chancellor of the Archbishopric and the Abbot of Apostolos Barnabas Monastery, representing H.B Archbishop Chrysostomos II together with representatives of Archbishop Soueif of the Maronite Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Nareg of the Armenian Church of Cyprus and Father Jerzy Kraj, head of the Latin Church and the Apostolic Delegation in Cyprus were present at Hala Sultan Tekke to bring greetings of peace and love from the Christian religious leaders of Cyprus to the Mufti on the occasion of the special Muslim feasts and express their respects. These encounters and meetings of cooperation and confidence building were facilitated and coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden.
The Mosque of Umm Haram at Hala Sultan Tekke is considered the most significant Muslim place of worship in Cyprus. The Tekke is open daily at set hours and used by Turkish Cypriot and other Muslim faithful freely. With the support of the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus, former Ministers of Interior of the RoC and the Office of RTCYPP, the Mufti’s representative has been able to set up an office at Hala Sultan Tekke including cooking and guest facilities to serve pilgrims and has access to use the living quarters and other rooms there. During Ramadan and other special feasts, the Antiquities Department of the Republic of Cyprus makes special arrangements for Hala Sultan Tekke to be open longer hours day and night to accommodate the worshipping needs of the faithful.