The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to Cyprus and Head of Unficyp, Elizabeth Spehar, has reiterated Unficyp’s commitment to support Cyprus` religious leaders’ joint efforts for freedom of religion, human rights and peace on the island.
Spehar was the honorary guest at a lunch meeting the Ambassador of Sweden to Cyprus, Anna Olsson Vrang, on Monday at the Swedish Residence in Nicosia, with the participation of the religious leaders of Cyprus, within the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) held under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden in Nicosia.
“I very much admire and value your work. Everyone needs to do his or her part on this island for peace and you have a special and important role in this regard,” Spehar said according to a press release issued by the Office of the RTCYPP.
“The religious leaders thanked the UN for all its efforts for peace in Cyprus and expressed their best wishes to Mr Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci for a positive outcome from their intensive talks in Switzerland,” the press release added.
The meeting, moderated by Peter Weiderud, Director of the Swedish Institute Alexandria, took stock of the direct and indirect achievements of the religious track since 2009 and the historic steps taken by all involved.
Mufti of Cyprus, Archbishop of the Maronite Church, Representative of the Apostolic Nunciature in Cyprus and head of Latin Church as well as the representatives of the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and incoming Archbishop of the Armenian Orthodox Church thanked the Swedish Government, ambassadors and the facilitators of the RTCYPP for their invaluable role and support for dialogue, human rights, peace and reconciliation in Cyprus.
“Promoting and securing human rights is key to building peace, trust and confidence. The Swedish Government is committed to continue its support to the efforts of the religious leaders of Cyprus. Their joint achievements have been widely recognized in Cyprus and beyond,” the ambassador noted. She also thanked Unficyp for the fruitful cooperation with the RTCYPP.
The meeting also discussed the existing status of religious monuments and the right to worship across the dividing line. “One of the root causes for the difficulties we face in our work seems to be the lack of knowledge, understanding and respect for religious freedom as a human right. Respecting all places of worship and allowing for each faith community to care for them and use them in accordance to their religious tradition is a right that should not be kept hostage to the Cyprus problem,” said Salpy Eskidjian, the Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP and co-facilitator of the religious leaders’ dialogue for peace.
According to the press release, the religious leaders once again reiterated their conviction that places of worship in Cyprus should be restored, open and fully accessible. They all emphasized that sharing hope by staying together, witnessing and working together for peace as
religious leaders is a daily duty rooted in their faith.
The RTCYPP was established in 2009 to encourage, facilitate and serve the religious leaders’ dialogue and efforts for religious freedom and peace in Cyprus and to contribute positively and constructively to the Cyprus peace talks.
In 2016 there were a total of six high level meetings of the religious leaders, facilitated and organized by the Office of RTCYPP, two of which were between Archbishop Chrysotomos II and Mufti Atalay. The last high level meeting was held in July.