Cyprus, located in the eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, north of Egypt and west of Syria, has been divided by a patrolled UN buffer zone since 1974, with Turkish-speaking Muslims in the northern part of Cyprus and Greek-speaking Christians in the southern part of Cyprus. CFP works to bridge the divided communities by building friendships amongst the teens from both sides of the divide.
Why Cyprus? Why CFP?
The conflict between the two communities has its roots in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 1974, a war brought about a geographical militarized partition with UN Peacekeepers that continues to exist today, separating the two deeply divided communities.
● Most Cypriots born after 1974 have grown up without contact with anyone from the other side.
● Each community has its own version of history and “the demons” are the people on the other side of the divide. Because English is a common second language, communication is possible to address these differences.
● The island is small enough that a program of Cyprus Friendship Program’s size can make a difference.
● Both communities are filled with wonderful people who have much in common culturally, but the long years of separation have made most unaware of this fact.
● There are adults willing to volunteer enormous efforts to help promote friendships between the two communities and teens in both communities seeking to become friends with members of the other side.
● Since 2003, it has been possible for Cypriots to cross the divide through a small number of checkpoints. Although it is possible, it is still politically and culturally complex to cross.
● Cypriot society remains polarized. Extremist groups have harassed program coordinators and teenagers. Despite these problems not even one member of the Cyprus Friendship Program’s family in Cyprus suggested giving up the struggle. On the contrary, the work continues to grow.
● We know of no other youth programs that are as effective as Cyprus Friendship Program in bringing together Cypriot youth and their families from across the divide.
● Cyprus is one of the more densely militarized places on the planet. Citizen peace building work that replaces fear with trust is a necessary component for any political agreement leading to the demilitarization of the island.
● Hatred and prejudice against the other community is common amongst the youth of the island and cases of peaceful coexistence are very rare. Cyprus Friendship Program’s teenagers are a living example that peace is possible and have already inspired and given hope to many thousands of Cypriots.
● Peace in Cyprus could offer a model elsewhere in the Middle East.
● Families hosting Turkish and Greek Cypriot teens in their homes in the U.S. show the goodwill, caring, and generosity of Americans. The strong relationships that develop between the host families and teens result in bonds between Americans and two Cypriot communities, both of which in recent decades have been strained.
● Those in Cyprus seeking friendship between the two communities greatly appreciate the involvement of Americans who are without a political agenda and who treat communities, their cultures and their beliefs, with equal respect.