By Jean Christou
RELIGIOUS leaders on the island yesterday lent their support to the new round of Cyprus talks saying there was no alternative to cooperation, communication and coexistence.
Among the religious leaders at a special lunch hosted by Swedish ambassador Klas Gierow in Nicosia, were Archbishop Chrysostomos, Turkish Cypriot Mufti Dr Talip Atalay, Maronite Archbishop Youssef Soueif, Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Herkelian and the Latin Representative Father George Kraj.
After the lunch, Gierow read out a joint statement from the clerics saying they welcomed the resumption of Cyprus talks based on the joint declaration agreed between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus and supported the common message that the current status quo was unacceptable.
Human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the separate identity and integrity of both communities should be respected, it said.
It added that Cyprus has had a long history in which Christians and Muslims lived, worked and prayed side by side in harmony. Religion has been one of the biggest victims of the island’s recent history, the statement said, in that for decades now spiritual leaders have been unable to hold meetings, listen to each other and exchange views.
The few meetings in recent years helped them get to know each other and has helped build confidence and find practical solutions to practical problems.
“Joint effort and cooperation is the tool through which to promote faith, where there is doubt, love, and where there is hatred and despair, hope,” the statement said.
“Our faith in God is our hope. In Him we trust because nothing is impossible when you believe in God. ”
Speaking to the press afterwards, Archbishop Chrysostomos said he wanted to send the message that the island’s spiritual leaders stood united on the Cyprus issue.
Asked about Turkey’s role in the Cyprus talks, Chrysostomos said it was of “vital importance”.
“I believe that Turkey can play a positive role in the dialogue so that we can come to a positive result,” he said.
Atalay said religious leaders spoke a different language to that of politicians, “a language of peace” and urged politicians to exchange views with them.
UNFICYP chief of mission Lisa Buttenheim, who also attended the lunch, said the island’s religious leaders could work together because they understood each other spiritually.