On 7 February 2018, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) and Head of UNFICYP, Ms. Elizabeth Spehar, visited a selected number of religious monuments and cemeteries high on the agenda of the religious leaders of Cyprus. Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and Dr. Talip Atalay, Mufti of Cyprus welcomed the visit and the support of UNFICYP.
Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis and Imam Shakir Alemdar of Hala Sultan Tekke briefed the SRSG about the state of the religious monuments visited, and about some of the challenges the faith communities face in regards to accessing and restoring these sites of worship. SRSG Spehar thanked the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) for organizing the visit and took the opportunity to express her support for the joint advocacy efforts of the religious leaders of Cyprus for religious freedom, coexistence, peace and reconciliation.
The visit took place on the last day of World Interfaith Harmony Week, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to acknowledge that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace. The joint field visit to religious monuments are a positive example of how the religious leaders of Cyprus, within the framework of RTCYPP, are working together in solidarity to advocate for religious freedom and the protection of all religious monuments in Cyprus.
Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Sweden, Mr. Peter Kvist and RTCYPP Executive Coordinator Ms. Salpy Eskidjian accompanied the visit. The RTCYPP is an unprecedented local confidence and peacebuilding effort, initiated in 2009 under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden.