Pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke is a small sign of hope, says RTCYPP

Executive Coordinator of the Office the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) said Tuesdays pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke is a small sign of hope and bridge-building at a time when trust among Cypriots has been broken again.

Salpy Eskidjian was speaking after a pilgrimige of around 600 faithful of Turkish origin who visited the government controlled areas of the Republic to worship on the occasion of the Eid al-Adha – Kurban Bayram.

The right to worship and freedom to access places of worship all over the island for everyone living in Cyprus should not be a victim of its division nor be dependant on politics, said Turkish Cypriot Mufti Talip Atalay.

These special pilgrimages are the fruits of the religious leaders’ dialogue and cooperation for which we are both committed to and most grateful for. No matter what, as religious leaders of Cyprus we all agree and advocate for religious freedom and these pilgrimages are one concrete such example. said Mufti Atalay.

He said the right to worship and freedom to access places of worship all over the island for everyone living in Cyprus should not be a victim of it’s division nor be dependant on politics and pledged that no matter what anyone says this is what he has promoted and advocated for since he took office and will never give up on this principle.

Ambassador of Sweden, Anna Olsson Vrang, who attended the pilgrimage for the first time extended her best wishes for the Eid to Mufti Talip Atalay and to all Muslims living in Cyprus. I’m happy that Sweden through the initiative of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process can contribute to the promotion of freedom of religion and the respect of basic human rights principles on this beautiful island, she said.

The Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP) is a peacebuilding effort of the religious leaders of Cyprus committed to work jointly for human rights, peace and reconciliation, initiated and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden.

Executive Coordinator of the Office of RTCYPP, Eskidjian said that through it work over the years the RTCYPP has witnessed the concrete consequences when the right to worship, on both sides of the divide, is either violated or respected. We regret that religious freedom is still not fully understood by politicians or civil servants.

Today we witness a small sign of hope and bridge-building at a time when trust among Cypriots has been broken again, she added.

The special pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke is the result of an agreement between the religious leaders of Cyprus, namely Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus and the Mufti of Cyprus Dr Talip Atalay.

The special pilgrimages are organised and led by the Mufti of Cyprus, coordinated by the Office of RTCYPP and the facilitated by UNFICYP and UN Police. Special pilgrimages to Hala Sultan Tekke have been taking place three times annually as per the request of the Mufti of Cyprus on the occasions of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Mawlid-al Nabi. This was the 10th pilgrimage within this framework agreement since 2014.

Greek Cypriots pilgrims were denied the right to visit Ayios Mamas church in occupied Morphou last week by the illegal regime.

Kurban Bayram or Eid al-Adha, is one of Islams holiest festival celebrated annually around the world and an official holiday in Muslim-majority countries. It marks the end of the Hajj to Mecca. In Cyprus it is known as Kurban Bayram.

The Mosque of Umm Haram at Hala Sultan Tekke is considered the most significant Muslim place of worship in Cyprus. The Tekke is open daily at set hours by the Antiquities Department and used by Turkish Cypriot and other Muslim faithful freely. The Imam of Hala Sultan leads prayers every Friday.

Source: Cyprus News Agency