Let’s go to Cyprus…

Article published on Sept. 24, 2008
community published
Article published on Sept. 24, 2008
Cyprus and Greece are not the same country, but some of last week’s Greek newspapers talked a lot about the island where Aphrodite is supposed to have been born. Discussions about the 34 years old conflict between the Greek and the Turkish part began on Thursday the 11th September, and the Greek government has reitarated its support for the Greek-Cypriot president of the Republic of Cyprus.
Let’s take this opportunity to go and see what’s exactly happening there. drapeau chypre We won’t talk about the current negotiations, because no clear solution has appeared until now and the newspapers don’t give a lot of information about this matter.

But there is some interesting information about a struggle recently opposing the Cypriot Minister of Education against teachers and the Church. Let’s have a look at the facts: the government made an announcement to enhance the chance of “creating a peaceful atmosphere, respectful of the other community living on the island, and supporting a collaboration with the two sides, in order to live together in harmony”. He also underlined the will to see “the end of the occupation of our country and its reunification”. According to the Cypriot newspaper Simerini, a document from the Cypriot Minister of Education was sent to all schools in the country a few days before the schools went back and asked the teachers to organize intercultural pedagogical activities with their pupils, i.e. exhibitions on problems shared by both – the Greek and Turkish – communities, discussions about how two different communities could live together in peace in the same country and comparisons between the two languages… This all sounds very positive in the political context of the negotiations. The Greek-Cypriot government seems to show how strong its desire of reunification is.

However, teachers don’t seem to be very enthusiastic about the project, nor is the Church. According to Phileleftheros, another Cypriot newspaper, the Ministry of Education is thinking about changing the history school books, a fact that the Cypriot Orthodox Church can not accept: “Every change in history is an insult for the teachers who have taught these facts for hundreds of years, and for us, who were taught the same”, claimed the Archbishop of the Cypriot Orthodox Church. He apparently has never heard about how history can be a subjective matter. He added that “the Greek Christian education that is used in our country and the ideals we trust have been living for more than 2000 years”: these words sound like those of a man completely submerged by a conservative wave. The President immediately answered that “everything I hear about anti-Greek propaganda or re-writing the history is simply a lie without any foundation”. This incident proved again the poor relationship between the Archbishop and the President (who belongs to the Communist Party). But a negative reaction also came from the teachers. Some of them expressed their fear and critical comments in Simerini. “How could a school situated in the occupied part of the country invite a school from the ‘free zone’? If some teachers or pupils refuse to go into the occupied place, will the Ministry of Education punish them in any way?” Certainly the authorities need to give practical answers to these questions. Teachers also don’t want the occupation problem to be underestimated: “Invasion and occupation are facts, we mustn’t forget them”. This story is very interesting because it raises a lot of questions: Can schools and education systems manage to change the mentalities? Is history an objective science? And, finally, will the current negotiations give a clear and peaceful answer to all of these problems? Let’s wait and see…