More than 20 organisations from across Cyprus met in the buffer zone between north and south on 10 May, to discuss the challenges of protecting and supporting the most vulnerable on the island. The event, Safe Space for All, was organised by Diocesan Social Concern Officer the Reverend Anne Futcher in partnership with Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Director Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process.
Archdeacon Christopher Futcher, Diocesan Safeguarding Officer in Cyprus, described ‘safe space’ as being about protecting people’s health, well-being and human rights, and enabling them to live free from harm and neglect. He stressed the need for organisations to be deliberate in their approach, including in the design of guidelines and processes for creating and maintaining safe space.
UNHCR Cyprus Protection Officer Olga Komiti spoke about asylum-seekers and refugees, noting the additional risks to safety posed by overcrowding in the island’s main reception centre. She also noted the complexities of working across different legal frameworks in the north, south and British Sovereign Base Areas.
The emotional toll on staff and volunteers in the face of seemingly relentless need was noted by several participants—including the observation that in supporting survivors, they were themselves vulnerable to trauma.
Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Cyprus the Very Reverend Bruno Varriano talked movingly of trauma—both as a priest and clinical psychologist, and from personal experience. His answer to the fundamental question of how best to support survivors was a poignant one: “Love them.”
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Above: Salpy Eskidjian, the Revd Anne Futcher, Archdeacon Christopher and Fr Bruno Varriano