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Cyprus situation able to be resolved: religious communities can pave the way

Written by World Council of Churches
November 27, 2014

The role of religion is constructive in creating trust among communities, according to Espen Barth Eide, United Nations Special Adviser on Cyprus. “The religious communities can pave a way towards building a shared vision necessary for a common future of Cyprus,” he said.

Eide shared his views in a meeting with the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee on 24 November in Paralimni, Cyprus. Eide spoke in detail on the on-going negotiations for a resolution of the division of Cyprus.

In 1974, a coup d’etat ordered by the ruling military Junta in Greece deposed the Cypriot president Archbishop Makarios III, and was followed by two successive invasions of the island by Turkish forces. The August 1974 ceasefire line became the United Nations buffer zone, along which Cyprus remains divided. As a result of the conflict and partition of the island, as many as 200,000 Greek Cypriots and 65,000 Turkish Cypriots are estimated to have been displaced.

Some 6,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the fighting. Additionally, 1619 people were recorded as missing and are still unaccounted for.

In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, which stations approximately 30,000 troops in the northern part of the island.

Speaking on addressing the division of Cyprus, Eide said the “faith factor” can play an important role in creating good will. He said religious leaders can help promote a “sense of shared humanity”.

A recent example of religious leaders' actions for reconciliation in Cyprus was the 22 November initiative by Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Church of Cyprus and Dr Talip Atalay, Mufti of Cyprus, in which they led a special crossing for pilgrims of Turkish origin to pray at Hala Sultan Tekke, an Islamic Holy site in southern Cyprus. This initiative was part of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, in cooperation with the Embassy of Sweden.

Eide, a former Foreign Minister of Norway, was appointed in August 2014 by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to assist all parties in the conduct of negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.

In his conversation with members of the WCC Executive Committee, Eide expressed his “strong sense of optimism” based on the recognition by both main parties that the current situation was not acceptable and needed to be resolved. He said that despite all the challenges, the issue of Cyprus is able to be resolved.

Eide said that a successful outcome of the Cyprus peace process would also be an example and sign of hope for the neighbouring Middle East region and for the wider world.

WCC Executive Committee members represent member churches of the WCC from all regions of the globe. The current meeting of the Executive Committee is hosted by the Church of Cyprus, a member of the WCC.



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