U.S. Embassy Reception - June 28, 2017

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Dear Ambassador,

First of all, I would like to say thank you for this reception on behalf of the Cyprus Friendship Programme. I believe that the programme is one of the most important organisations in Cyprus, because this programme gives a change to a lot of Greek Speaking and Turkish Speaking Cypriots to interact with each other… During the interaction, Greek speaking and Turkish Speaking Cypriots notice that all Cypriots have a common history, culture and pain… In addition to this, members of the CFP create the strongest friendship bonds with each other.

Last year, I participated in the camp branch of the CFP. Additionally I participated in a lot of workshops, I had fun, we sang our traditional songs, I participated in bi- communal folk dance groups and we danced with our common traditional songs, we planted trees, we cleaned a mosque and a church, we walked to the river, we made origami, we played instruments, Greek Cypriots learned many Turkish words and Turkish Cypriots learned many Greek words and we drank a lot of Cypriot coffee during the camp period.

We only want peace in this country… We want peace so that in the future we can live side by side again… We want peace so we can travel to all the parts of Cyprus without showing a passport or an ID card… This country is ours; don’t forget that it belongs to all of us… We can live together again; we can live as one community. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, have something very important in common, we are both Cypriots… Peace begins with a smile… Peace begins with a friendship…Peace begins with acceptance… Peace is in our hands… Today, we think so, therefore we are members of the Cyprus Friendship Programme and we are proud of ourselves.

Thank you very much for listening.
Hilmi Arica
Good afternoon, Ambassador, Coordinators, parents and fellow 2017 CFP teens.

My name is Melina Ilarionos. I'm 17 years old and despite the fact that I lived in Africa for more than half my life, trust me when I tell you the Cyprus Problem has always been rooted deep in my heart. I've always had the urge to contribute to resolving this problem but always felt too weak, too far away or too young. Little did I know that my youth, OUR youth is our greatest strength. Listen when I tell you, WE are the future of our country. Let's begin a wave of change so powerful nobody can stop it. Let's make our common dream, vision and ambition into action, because in order to guarantee that we unite our island tomorrow, we need to act TODAY!

You may say I’m a dreamer;
For agreeing with Mother Teresa that "Peace begins with a smile." It's no lie that a smile can light up a room, so imagine what a world of smiles could do.
You may say I’m a dreamer;
For agreeing with Martin Luther King Jr. that "We may have all come on different ships but we're all on the same boat now."
You may say I’m a dreamer;
For agreeing with Mahatma Gandhi that "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world go blind."
You may say I’m a dreamer;
For being able to imagine Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots living in the same neighborhoods, going to the same schools, running across the same fields freely, being able to swim in the same sea and living in tranquility.
You may say I’m a dreamer;
For being able to imagine an island without weapons, soldiers and buffer zones.

For years the Cyprus Friendship Programme has been trying to make these dreams come true by giving the opportunity to hundreds of young Cypriots across the Island to "fight" for peace using love and knowledge instead of weapons. As CFP teens we've joined a family that stands together united, determined and more willing than ever to break down the walls that have been dividing our small island for 43 years. We're capable of building bridges between the youth of 2 communities but is that enough to make these 2 communities one again? We expect you, our leaders and big nations to take our dreams and make them into action. Our future relies heavily on your decisions, support and influence.

All in all, it's no doubt that we have great challenges and great opportunities and only together will we be able to meet them and make sure this year stays in history. We need to look at this old issue in a new way. Not simply for today but to make our tomorrows more rewarding, more fulfilling, and more compelling because of the changes we make today.

You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us and the world will be as one.

Thank you for listening.
Melina Ilarionos