The Bishop of Lichfield joined people from other faiths in a pilgrimage exploring justice and peace in Cyprus.
The Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave (above) was part of the ongoing Walking Together project which saw the international and interreligious group meet in Nicosia from 6 to 8 December to explore the theme Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, which undergirds the World Council of Churchs (WCC) programmatic focus.
Organized by the WCCs team for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, the pilgrimage included people from Buddhist, Christian (Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, United), Indigenous, Jewish, and Muslim (Sunni, Shia) religious traditions.
The group journeyed to two religious sites outside Nicosia, the Christian site marking the tomb of Apostolos Barnabas near Salamis and Famagusta and the Muslim shrine of Hala Sultan Tekke near Larnaca.
Bishop Michael said: It was fascinating to join people from a wide range of religious backgrounds on pilgrimage to religious sites within divided communities.
How we care for the things that are most precious in the life of other faith communities is a real test of our humanity.
Pilgrimage together can play a key role in bringing unity where there is difference. This is a theme that we will be looking to develop in the Diocese of Lichfield in the coming year.
Participants were able to discern fresh understandings of justice and peace in relation to pilgrimage. Drawing on the common ground of pilgrimage traditions, the hope of the project is to develop an innovative methodology for interreligious dialogue which will bring into creative conversation issues of conflict, contestation and coalescence and recover pilgrimage as a spiritual, theological tool for dialogue, justice and peace.
Encouraged by the phrase walking makes the way, the group expressed appreciation for the support of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process. We are grateful too to the religious leaders of Cyprus who spent time with us, sharing their insights into the situation in the country or facilitating our experience in various ways, states a report released after the meeting.
The report contains reflections on the meaning of pilgrimage sites, a description of the challenge of meeting in a UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, and thoughts on how an unprecedented dialogue between different religious leaders of Cyprus and faith communities has built trust and improved religious freedom contributing to the peace process in Cyprus.
This, the visit in Cyprus, is the first chapter of what is intended to be a multi-year interreligious project, explained the report. It offered a rich and stimulating beginning. As well as publicising our experience and reflections from this context, it is intended that we will feed them into the ongoing process of the project.
Project organizers said it is hoped that the next chapter of this journey will take place in India in 2017.
The full report can be read here