By Evie Andreou
Peace in Cyprus is on the way, the religious leader of the Turkish Cypriots Mufti Dr Talip Atalay said on Tuesday during a pilgrimage to the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in Larnaca.
Around 1,000 Muslims travelled from the north to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the month long fasting period of Ramadan.
The pilgrims arrived at the mosque in buses at around 10am, escorted by police, while the site was closed to other visitors for most of the day.
Many pilgrims felt very emotional as it was their first visit, the Cyprus News Agency reported.
Umm Haram mosque is one of the most important shrines of the Islamic world as according to legend, it was built where the Prophet Mohammad’s wet nurse was buried when she fell from her horse and died during the first Arab raids on the island.
“Peace and only peace. Is there another word other than peace? We live together in peace not only in Cyprus but the Middle East as well,” Atalay said.
Commenting on the solution of the Cyprus problem he expressed optimism.
“We are here, you are here and we are having a conversation. I would like to tell the Greek Cypriots that all this tells us that peace is on its way,” he said.
The pilgrimage, the third since 2014, was organised by the Mufti’s office with the support of Archbishop Chrysostomos, as part of the ongoing rapprochement dialogue between the island’s two religious leaders facilitated by the office of the Religious Track, under the auspices of the Swedish Embassy.
Atalay expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Chrysostomos, the Foreign Affairs Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, and the Swedish Ambassador Klas Gierow for their support.
“Religion and religious freedom is a victim of the Cyprus conflict. But this pilgrimage shows that the political leaders with support of the religious leaders of Cyprus can change that,” Gierow said.
The religious leaders of Cyprus, Gierow said, have shown that inter-religious dialogue and communication is an important element of a healthy society, where human rights and religious freedom are respected.
“Together they are making a unique and very constructive contribution to peace in Cyprus. The celebration of Eid al-Fitr today, bringing 1,000 worshipers – many for the first time to Hala Sultan Tekke – clearly shows that religion can give hope and inspiration for a solution of this conflict,” he said.
The pilgrimage was facilitated by UNFICYP Civil Affairs in cooperation with relevant authorities.