Cyprus – Building bridges of peace
During the past few days Cyprus is experiencing very promising new attempts for a solution to the ongoing Cyprus political problem. A problem, that since 1974, keeps apart the two communities, the Greek Cypriot community, (in which the majority of the three religious minorities recognised under the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus–Maronites, Armenians and Latins belong) and the Turkish Cypriot Community. The President of Cyprus Mr Nicos Anastassiades and the newly elected Turkish Cypriot Leader Mr Mustafa Akinci, under the auspices of the United Nations, are taking new initiatives for negotiations and talks, in an effort to reach an agreement. At request of the Justice
and Peace Europe General Secretariat Mrs Maria Skordi, the secretary of the newly created Cypriotic Justice and Peace Commission writes about
recent developments and especially about some low-key policy initiatives. She also explains the wider implications of peace for the whole region.
In parallel to the resumption of the talks at the political arena, small but decisive steps are taken in another level, at the social, which gradually will build trust among the parties and demolish the distrust and barriers that exist between the members of the two communities.
As aptly remarked «the key to the peace process is to start seeing the"other" as your future partner and not as your enemy!».
Along these lines, on Saturday 23rd May 2015, Nicosia, the only divided European capital experienced a small but symbolic action as to how things should be in a peace process.
For the first time in decades, the two leaders Mr Anastassiades and Mr Akinci crossed the dividing line on foot, in the walled city of Nicosia on a social visit, spending 45 minutes on each side. It was a symbolic move, a new beginning. This social walk revealed the eagerness of the members of the two communities to resolve the problem that divides them for more than four decades. On both sides the leaders were surrounded by smiling people who congratulated and applauded them demonstrating their approval to such moves, which create a more optimistic public mood and help in cultivating a positive climate which is essential for the talks to move on.
At the same time, the two parties through their negotiators Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Ozdil Nami are working on agreeing ‘low politics’ confidence-building measures that will create a climate of trust and boost the negotiating procedure.
On behalf of the Greek community part, such measures, as announced by the President Mr Nicos Anastasiades, include maps for minefields and granting free and normal access to all worship places. Other measures such as the opening of crossing points that will ease the access to either part have been agreed and will soon be announced.
Apart from the initiatives taken on the political level significant efforts are made on the religious level as the Church plays an important role and significantly contributes to the efforts for the reunification of Cyprus.
In this spirit, through the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, the five religious leaders of Cyprus who are
His Beatitude the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the Mufti Dr. Talip Atalay, the Maronite Archbishop Youssef Soueif, the Armenian Archbishop Nareg Alemezian and the Latin Patriarchal Vicar Fr. George Kraj meet regularly discussing subjects related to the communities and their coexistence in order to build in our society the culture of peace and reconciliation based on forgiveness and justice.
In a joint statement they underline that “religion has been and still is a victim of the prolonged conflict. For too many decades we have not been allowed to meet, to listen to and understand the other. In recent years, the paper says, we have all tried to find practical solutions, build confidence, and we succeeded. […]We realize that our responsibility is to ensure that the political conflict is resolved, we believe that there is no alternative to the communication, cooperation and coexistence.”
Of course, on a political level, the so called «low politics» confidence –building measures are only a small but significant step before tackling the hard core issues that separate the island, issues such as the bleeding wound of the missing people, the enclaved people, the destruction of worship places and many more.
Cyprus that holds the responsibility of coexistence is the beautiful oasis of peace urgently needed nowadays. It has a role and a message to spread not only to and for the island, but also for the whole region.
It can be a bridge for peace, which is “ a daily, a weekly and a monthly process gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers and quietly building new structures”.
(Secretary – Justice and Peace Cyprus)