The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) hosts this week in Cyprus the 43rd Conference of the International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE) entitled "Educating for a Culture of Peace in Divided Societies, History, Dialogue and Multiperspectivity Toward Reconciliation". The official kick off of the conference took place on Monday morning at the Home for Cooperation at the UN buffer zone in Nicosia.
The delegates were welcomed by the Managing Director of the IIPE Tony Jenkins, who spoke about the importance of peace education around the world, while German Ambassador in Nicosia, Franz Josef Kremp gave a speech, in which he stated that the situation in Germany was different than the one in Cyprus.
He said that in Germany there was a “genuine will on both sides, a very strong will to unify”, and added that in Cyprus there are two communities, “a Turkish and a Greek community with very different backgrounds and very different history”.
“We have for 55 years a UN peace mission on this island because there were intercommunal clashes that started in 1963, 1964”, he said, adding that if you want to learn something about peace then you should learn from the experience of Germany with its neighbors, particularly with France, with whom they were archenemies in the past. He pointed out that it required a lot of political will as well as efforts from the population to overcome this feeling of archenemy.
He said that the organized societies of Germany and France came together and also referred to the history schoolbooks saying that they set up a binational committee to work on school books, which is one of the most sensitive issues on how to deal with the past.
The Ambassador said that one of the most important things is to dedemonize and de-stereotype the other side and referred to the OSCE glossary for journalists and the reactions that this caused in Cyprus. He said that it was a very honest product but it was strongly politicised on the island.
He added that in order to dedemonize and get rid of the sterotypes you have to bring people together and praised the AHDR for its “Imagine” project that brings youngsters of the two communities together, eliminating stereotypes.
We support this project, he said, and expressed optimism that it will have an even more positive outcome.
Ozgw Ozogul on behalf of the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research said that 15 years ago the Association was established by teachers, academics and educators from across the divide, as a nongovernmental and non for profit organisation with a mission to contribute to the advancement of historical understanding among the public. She also spoke about the Association`s work throughout the years.
Loizos Loukaides on behalf of the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research spoke about their project named "Imagine", which travels to all areas in Cyprus and trains students in peace education, bringing them together and engaging them ia in teambuilding activities. The project managed to bring together in the last two years almost 3.700 students from both communities on the island. He also said that the Association is proud of its partnership with the IIPE.
They thanked the Federal Foreign Office of the Republic of Germany for their financial contribution as well as the Office of the European Parliament in Cyprus both for their financial contribution and support of their candidacy for aquiring the aegis of the President of the European Parliament.
On behalf of the Office of the European Parliament in Cyprus, Evaggelos Vasiliou said that "we deem it of utmost importance the fact that Cyprus and most precisly its divided capital has been chosen as the venue of your conference".
He added that the symbolism behind this decision is immense, taking into account the importance for the promotion of peace education in a deeply divided for decades island state.
"We are quite confident that raising into the public debate the important contribution that peace education has in divided societies, will definitely contribute positively in the efforts for reaching a viable settlement reuniting this island in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and the values and principles upon the EU is founded," he concluded.