I lived in the island nation of Cyprus from 1998 to 2001. This was time of change, as Cyprus prepared to enter the European Union, but still had to deal with the division of the island into two ethnic political entities. The details of implementation of the unification plan is still being debated and worked out.
The island had been divided since 1974, after a bloody ethnic war between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. They could not join Europe until they worked out the division of the island and reunited Cyprus into one multi-ethnic nation again.
Turkey had invaded the island in support of the Turkish Cypriots. A 'Green Line" had been drawn across the island, and through the capital city of Nicosia, to separate the geographical and ethnic territories. This line had been monitored by the United Nations forces since that time.
The only internationally recognized "nation" or "country" (that is, legal government) was the "south," the Greek Cypriot entity, which had continued to maintain the government under their previous constitution for the island state.
The Turkish entity had retired behind the Green Line and established their own separate country, declaring independence in 1983. A government was supported by Turkey, awhile that side of the island was occupied by Turkish armed forces. The "north" was operated as a separate country. But no one except Turkey recognized the "nation" of this Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
We went across the Green Line one time into the north, on a day trip. You could go over only for the day, and had to back across the line by 5:00 PM, or you were in violation of official Cypriot immigration. You would have no end of trouble getting back into Cyprus, since you had never left, yet you were physically outside the legal boundary.
You see, you never got a legal exit stamp in your passport, so you could not be legally out of the country. Thus you were prevented from returning across that same Green Line now, but if you went out through Turkey and Europe to return back to Greek Cyprus, when you arrived at the airport, your passport would show you had never left, so obviously they could not let you in — you were legally still there!
Meanwhile the Greek Orthodox tradition was still visibly and cultural prominent, even as secularisation appeared to be rampant in public life. The whole culture of (Greek) Cyprus was organized around the history, tradition, terminology and celebrations of the Greek version of the Christian message. Christian symbols, terminology, worship forms and cultural patterns were deeply embedded in the Cypriot psyche.
The Greek Cypriot government was conducting full elections for their Parliament in 2001. I followed the election campaign with interest. The politics of Cyprus were vigorous. Even though the whole population of the island – both "countries – was les than 1 million, in Greek Cyprus there were many political parties, including the AKEL Communist party.
There was some concern about a Communist-oriented party taking over. Though "communism" was dead, this was one of the few formerly communist "socialist" parties that still maintained the association with Communism.
I lived about 2 kilometers from my office and would often walk to and from the office, usually carrying my briefcase along the residential section of Dassoupoli. As I walked through the neighbourhood, I would take different routes for variety, watching the activities and greeting people as I passed.
This was an opportunity for me to support my neighbours and perform a spiritual service by blessing them as I passed, by praying for them and their lives, their families and their needs.
In May 2001, I was thinking about the election. This was the primary topic of my prayer-thoughts as I passed the homes, wondering who among these families had voted for AKEL or the other parties.
I walked home the evening after the elections, and as I passed the Cypriots on their porches and in the street, talking, laughing, playing with their kids or just relaxing and watching me walk by, I was praying for these people. AKEL had won the majority in Parliament and would form the next government, probably in coalition with other small parties. Change was in the air, signaling progress out of the morass of ethnic enmity that the new generation of Cypriots were fed up with.
I prayed for the old folks who have seen such rapid change in such a short time, as Cyprus has shot out the medieval village life organized around the Orthodox Church, into a strange world with fascinating and confusing alternatives. I prayed for the children who will not know the supportive village family life and deep heritage of Greek identity, consolidated in three centuries of survival under oppressive Turkish Muslim rule.
I prayed for the young men and women whose little children were swinging or eating their evening meal on the veranda, who voted in the election Sunday and who were perhaps anticipating more changes and new opportunities. Perhaps they were anticipating the upcoming entry of Cyprus into Europe, uncertain because of the lack of progress on resolving the division of the island.
I just invited the Lord to hear my many thoughts, and think with me, about these people, their needs and their future. With the AKEL party now leading the parliament, some changes will occur. I thought maybe as conscious change comes, Cyprus will be in a new position to break from a stalemated and stereotyped past and set the tone for progress to the future.
I was praying that among the changes, they will hear anew the gospel that is so prevalent and available in every aspect of Cypriot life. Like all of us, refocuses are helpful. I pray that my Cypriot friends will rediscover Christ personally, really hear the words of the Orthodox Church liturgy with renewed meaning and depth.
I pray that the winds of change will clarify the new options of the old gospel lying within the very fabric of their society, but accepted and often dismissed as commonplace. I pray that the words of Jesus will come alive and become personal as my Cypriot friends read the New Testament in their modern language, available and affordable in many books stores, such as the Orthodox Church stores. I pray that change will free them to reclaim Christ.
Cyprus: Notes and Perceptions
Cyprus, Afrodite and the Holy Virgin
History and Art in Cyprus
Italians, Etruscans and Greeks: Genetics and Ethnicity
Prayer as Communication for Intercession
Prayer Meditations based on The Purpose Driven Life
Thought-Prayer in the Communication Event
Words That Cannot Be Uttered
Related on the Internet:
History of Nationality in Cyprus
Northern Cyprus (Kibris)
Plan for the United Republic
Also view related PowerPoint Presentations:
A Visual Introduction to Eastern Orthodoxy
First notes written 28 May 2001
Article first published in Email Newsletter The Cyprus Sentinel 15 June 2001
New article written and posted on Thoughts and Resources 21 November 2007
Last edited 13 February 2013
Copyright © 2001, 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Please give credit and link back. Other rights reserved.