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13 July 2012
When Teens Meet, Cultural Divides are Broken and Learning Happens
On July 12, the GCDC Youth Team had the amazing opportunity to meet four students from the Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP). The group of American and Cypriot teens learned about the two programs. GCDC also learned about the situation in Cyprus and felt that the best way to share the story and information about CFP was from the Cypriot teens. The four teens worked together to write the following article:


IN A COUNTRY DIVIDED...PEOPLE UNITED!

By Ariadne Hadjikyriacou, Ipek Angolemlı, Barkın Cihanlı, and Kyriacos Neophytou.

Would you ever be able to face your own brother as an enemy? Actually, this is common in the daily life of people in Cyprus, an island located in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. From the 1960s onwards, there has been a conflict between the two communities: Turkish and Greek speaking Cypriots. This conflict escalated to a peak in 1974, when there was a Turkish invasion resulting in the occupation of 36% of the island and a physical separation of the two communities.

However, there have been some attempts to build bridges between the two communities. This is what we as a part of the Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) have been doing since 2009. The program aims to choose about 60 teenagers from both communities. The selected teens first meet in Cyprus. "As soon as I arrived there I saw a huge group with lots of laughs and cheerful voices and all my fears just slipped away. I joined to the group right away all of them were such great people. I wasn't expecting that and was in shock. I had a marvelous time that day, because I found my partner Ariadne and at first sight I understood she was the right one," Ipek said. We get involved in different activities in order to meet each other and go on a one month trip to the United States where we stay with host families. The goal of the trip is for us to gain leadership, teamwork and peace-building skills which we will use to bring peace back home. Unfortunately, the teenagers who participate in bicommunal activities are just a small minority. Once we are back home, some of us have to face prejudice, rejection and discrimination coming from people who want a partition to be established in Cyprus without interaction between the communities. Even worse, there is a nationalist-fascist extreme right-wing organization which threatens people like us with terrorism just because we work for co-existence.

Nevertheless, some of us are motivated to continue the peace-building process, thus giving a great increase in the number of applications to CFP. In 2009, only 20 teenagers applied, but in 2012 the number rose to 140! In addition, it is amazing how we do not only develop relationships with each other, but also bring our friends and families together, proving that a solution can be found for people to live peacefully united. We hope that the problem of division in Cyprus will be solved just like in Ireland. What keeps us moving forward is that IMPOSSIBILITY MEANS NOTHING.

One of our generous host parents, Mr. Bob Schott, states, "This is a vibrant and exciting program for a group of youth who are energetically pursuing peace. I am proud to be part of this effort."

Our executive director in the USA, Cassie Cleverly remarks, "I hope that we are a good inspiration source for the teenagers to stay bonded and continue the peace building project to unite the island through different group activities. Our aim is for every single relationship to stay strong as the years pass so that the new generation can bring about a change."

If you are believer of Martin Luther King's words, "we must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart," you could join the journey of peace-building in Cyprus by contributing financially to the program, or even better, by becoming a host family.