“B” is just 25 years old, born and raised in Kyrenia. His parents, both Turkish Cypriots, were never against peace. They never imparted to him nationalist propaganda.
During his adolescent years, he admits having taken part in nationalist movements due to peer pressure, until he took it upon himself at the age of 21 to challenge his mind by starting to dispute those beliefs and look at the other side of the coin.
The first time he met Greek Cypriots was during an educational workshop that took place in Nicosia. His friends were urging him not to join, saying “don’t go” and “they don’t want us” but he was determined. In the end, not only did he attend and made Greek Cypriot friends with whom he still collaborates, but he also met a girl to whom he would get engaged.
Today he lives with her in Nicosia while working on peace building, where he has joined forces with a Greek Cypriot young man to form a business platform for entrepreneurs from both communities, focusing on their needs and the common problem of unemployment.
There was initial reservation and distrust, but stereotypes and cultural barriers gradually started to fade away
I met him and his lady friend recently when I went to visit them in their home, where they both described that things had not been easy at first but they did not back down.
Apparently their young age, which was detached from the ghosts of the past, gave them the strength and self confidence to defend their rights and have dreams that would differ from the tainted ones dictated to them by “realities.”
Through the entrepreneurship platform that he has created, there have been some fifty individuals from both sides that have come into contact with each other for the first time. There was initial reservation and distrust between members from the two communities, but stereotypes and cultural barriers gradually started to fade away.
He even admitted to me that he teared up recently when he got an email saying some of the attendees had decided to move forward with a bicommunal project.
Their common need, he told me, made them approach each other with an open attitude ready to help each other and seek together a common solution. Such an undertaking often rises out of such a need but gradually it creates those preconditions for building trust.
B is just 25 years old. I say this again because I want to emphasize it. Because behind that twinkle in his eye and a relationship absolved of any blame from those “realities,” it is clear that that peace is not built in one day but through the creation of conditions of trust and vision as where thinking outside the box takes is necessary.
Falling short or finding hope
And here is my question. Why hasn’t anything been done so far on a political level so that such a foundation could be created? Why do we fall short in our intentions and get stuck on our disagreements? And why are we still debating confidence building measures that needed to have been done years ago so that trust could have been already solid to a great extent?
You could possibly view B’s story as a hopeless romantic take on “reality” or even a shallow approach to the political situation.
Not quite. It is actually the opposite because as I was looking at him talking, I felt that hope could indeed reside inside a gaze with such intent.
Let me be clear. No matter how many paintings by Paul Georgiou are returned or crossing points open up, nothing of substance will ever take hold if there are no people thinking outside the box. That is, people who are willing to go above and beyond their “fixed” or “troubled” beliefs so that they live without borders, whether real or made up.
The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 3 March 2019