Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud, leader of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, has received an International Religious Freedom Award from the US Department of State. The awards “honor extraordinary advocates of religious freedom from around the world” and will be presented on 17 July in Washington, D.C.
Weiderud was born in Cyprus, a grandchild of Armenian refugees. She is an architect and facilitator of the unprecedented peacebuilding initiative in Cyprus known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, which operates under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden.
Weiderud has focused her career on facilitating peace with passion, said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “Salpy has used her special talents and energy for peacemaking in many settings, some of them in the service of the WCC,” he said. “We are grateful for her many contributions, and this award for the work in Cyprus is well-deserved.”
Beginning as a student in the 1980s, Weiderud worked on a variety of bicommunal civil society and women’s peace initiatives in Cyprus. She was the first young female program executive working on religious freedom, human rights, and peace issues at the Middle East Council of Churches.
During her time at the WCC - between 1995 and 2005 - Weiderud served as executive secretary for International Affairs, programme executive for the Middle East, and special consultant on Palestine and Israel.
She founded the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, was a founding member of the International Action Network on Small Arms and Light Weapons, and initiated and led the Ecumenical Action Network Against Small Arms. As the executive coordinator of the Programme to Overcome Violence of the WCC, she led its Peace to the City Campaign (1997-1998) and initiated the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2000-2010).
Weiderud has served as the executive director of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process since 2012. Originally a quiet initiative that started in 2009, the religious track is now an active peacebuilding effort based on four pillars: to get to know and build trust among the religious leaders and respective faith communities; to promote confidence-building measures; to advocate for the right to free access and worship at churches, mosques and monasteries; and to ensure the protection of all religious monuments in Cyprus.