Religious freedom and cultural heritage in Cyprus: Working for unity in a divided land

10 November, 2015

Press Release No: 15/43
10 November 2015

On 10 November religious and political representatives gathered at the European Parliament to discuss religious freedom in the Republic of Cyprus. The well-attended seminar was held at the invitation of Dr Eleni Theocharous MEP in cooperation with the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the European Institutions and the Conference of European Churches.

In a panel moderated by His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasios of Achaia, senior religious leaders from Cyprus stressed the strong link between religion and culture. They rejected attempts to separate religion from its context, and affirmed the positive role religion plays in cultivating mutual respect and peaceful coexistence in Cyprus.

Religious contributions of the seminar stressed the unity of Cypriot people, and emphasised the political, rather than religious, nature of the conflict. They noted very good cooperation across different religious traditions and cultures, including the restoration of the restoration of the Armenian cathedral and monastery in the Arab Ahmet Quarter of Nicosia. The restoration won an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage as an important peace-building initiative.

An ongoing concern for all is the right of worship and ownership of religious sites. Presenters called on authorities in northern Cyprus to keep places of worship open for all as spaces for hope and reconciliation. There are many hundreds of sites and monuments in need of restoration in the Turkish-controlled part of the island, and cultural objects are lost to illicit trade. EU funding is critical for the restoration of sacred sites and the preservation of Cyprus’s cultural heritage.

A panel of human rights experts and political representatives noted that some progress has been made in advancing freedom of religion in Cyprus. In particular the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden has brought religious leaders together for historic dialogue.

The Church of Cyprus is a longstanding member of the Conference of European Churches. CEC has previously cooperated on an interfaith seminar on religious freedom in Cyprus, and has met with the Cyprus EU Presidency.

For a complete programme of the event, please click here.

For more information or an interview, please contact:

Erin Green
Communication Coordinator
Conference of European Churches

Rue Joseph II, 174 B-1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 2 234 68 42
Fax +32 2 231 14 13
Twitter: @ceceurope

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 114 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 national council of churches and organisations in partnership. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Brussels and Strasbourg.
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