WCC leadership meets with president of Cyprus in a bid to find healing for divided island

WCC leadership meets with president of Cyprus in a bid to find healing for divided island

Reunification and reconciliation among communities in the island’s divided capital Nicosia

Leaders of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus have discussed reunification of Cyprus and reconciliation among communities at a meeting on 25 November in the island’s divided capital Nicosia.

The WCC leadership is meeting in Cyprus, where member churches are playing a significant role in peace process aimed at reunification of the divided island.

Cyprus was divided following the Turkish invasion in 1974, with the northern-third region inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. According to United Nations estimates 165,000 Greek Cypriots fled to the south, and 45,000 Turkish Cypriots fled to the northern part of the island following the invasion. In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.

President Anastasiades gave his appreciation of the role played by churches seeking reconciliation and reunification for Cyprus in his meeting with the WCC leadership. He acknowledged contributions made by the Cypriot churches in promoting democracy, dialogue, human rights and religious freedom.

The island of Cyprus, divided for 40 years now, was called “a station for the pilgrimage of justice and peace” by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. In the meeting, Tveit shared how aspirations for unity of Cyprus by the WCC member churches resonates well with the theme “pilgrimage of justice and peace” – a significant call from the WCC 10th Assembly.

Along with the WCC general secretary, the WCC was represented by Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Metropolitan Dr Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee and Metropolitan Dr Vasilios, spiritual head of the diocese of Constantia – Ammochostos in Cyprus. Among WCC staff members present in the meeting were Peter Prove, director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs and Marianne Ejdersten, acting director of Communications.

Speaking about meeting with President Anastasiades, Abuom said, “We have to find a way towards reconciliation and healing from the past. There are ongoing initiatives through which Cyprus can seek peaceful solutions for a united island.”

Abuom said the WCC would accompany its member churches in Cyprus, which have played an active role in the Cyprus peace process through the religious track by “bringing people together, sharing experiences, living and moving together. That’s the only way forward towards a world of justice and peace,” she said.

“We can see that President Anastasiades is very committed to the peace process and is contributing all kinds of efforts to reconcile and reunify the island,” said Abuom.

Tveit added after the meeting: “The president has a clear picture that a peace agreement can be reached and he emphasized the importance of involving young people to build a sustainable and peaceful solution to live together in Cyprus.”