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From 8 to 10 October 2016, the Committee of Representatives of Orthodox Churches to the European Union (CROCEU) met in Nicosia, Cyprus in the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus, at the kind invitation of His Beatitude, Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus Chrysostomos II. The main topic of the seminar was “Freedom of Religion or Belief of the Orthodox in the World”.

Those present at the meeting were: H.E. Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium and the V. Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Aimilianos Bogiannou (Ecumenical Patriarchate), the Rev. Protobresbyter Fr. Athenodoros Papaevriviades (Patriarchate of Alexandria), the V. Rev. Fr. Archimandrite Moses Alkhassi (Patriarchate of Antioch), His Eminence Metropolitan of Vostron Timotheos (Patriarchate of Jerusalem), the V. Rev. Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko (Moscow Patriarchate), the V. Rev. Hieromonk Evsevije Meandzija (Patriarchate of Serbia), H.E. Metropolitan Nifon of Târgoviște and the V. Rev. Fr. Prof. Dr. Sorin Selaru (Patriarchate of Romania) and His Grace Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis and Deacon Fr. Nektarios Ioannou (Church of Cyprus).

The participants discussed the problem of Religious Freedom, which has evolved into a deep gaping wound that creates major concerns about the bloodshed, the loss of so many souls, the future of peoples, especially of Christians in the sensitive region of the Middle East.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Dr. Ioannis Kasoulides, representatives of the European Commission, of the Office of the European Parliament in Cyprus, as well as all religious participants shared their insights underlining the importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FROB), which is an essential element of the identity of a human being constituting a foundation for a democratic society. The importance and the role of the fundamental Human Right of FROB was underlined, because it is our responsibility as Orthodox Christians to show respect, patience and love to all, even to our persecutors and enemies and through sincere, honest and open dialogue to build bridges between cultures and religions, for this will assure the peaceful coexistence between people of different convictions.

When speaking of FROB one thinks first of all ones’ rights. However, one needs to also take into account the responsibilities that come with it. CROCEU was called to intensify its important work focusing even more on the issue of the violations of FROB and was kindly requested to engage further in meetings with the European Institutions to call upon the dangers that the Christians are facing in various areas, such as the Middle East, Turkey, Kosovo and Metochia, Ukraine, Cyprus and elsewhere.

In a special session the members of CROCEU approved the annual report and proposals were made for future activities.

On Sunday, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy together with the participants, at the parish of Saint Sofia in Nicosia. During their stay the members of CROCEU visited the monuments of the Heroes’ hanged, the Monastery of Panagia of Machairas, as well as historical sites in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus that revealed the extremely difficult situation in which Christians are forced to live in.