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UN expert hails ‘key breakthrough for religious freedom reached in Cyprus’

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, Tuesday hailed a key breakthrough in inter-faith communication reached by a cross section of religious leaders on the island allowing Muslim and Greek Orthodox religious leaders to cross the Green Line.
“These may seem like small steps, but they constitute a huge leap for the religious communities concerned,” Bielefeldt said. “I am very pleased about the recent positive developments and improved climate of interreligious communication in Cyprus. I consider it a breakthrough for religious freedom on the whole island.”
On Friday the Grand Mufti of Cyprus, Dr Talip Atalay crossed the Green Line and held a service at the Hala Sultan Mosque near Larnaca for the first time. This was possible due to an agreement reached with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who personally facilitated Dr Atalay’s access.
Two days earlier, Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia, who had been prevented for the previous 18 months from visiting the northern part of Cyprus and his diocese, was allowed to visit and worship at Apostolos Andreas monastery on the Karpass peninsula.
“While the Cyprus conflict is not per se a religious conflict, all cooperation between the religious leaders had stopped when the bi-communal conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots escalated 50 years ago,” the UN Special Rapporteur added.
Bielefeldt praised the religious leaders during a video conference held last Friday concerning the new significant steps they made towards improving freedom of religion or belief on the whole island.

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