By Loizos Loukaidis
On September 22nd 2013, on the occasion of the International Day of Peace, celebrations were held at the Home for Cooperation in the UN Buffer zone in Nicosia, Cyprus. The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) and POST Research Institute (POST RI) announced the declaration of Nicosia as a City of Peace and formed the Nicosia, Cyprus – City of Peace Committee as part of the International Cities of Peace network. On that special day, the two organizations and civil society actors from all communities across the existing divide reaffirmed their willingness for contributing towards an alternative sustainable future, which comprises of an egalitarian Cypriot society and recognizes the dignity of every living being, and joined efforts towards an education that prepares children and youth to live in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-faith society in Cyprus.
It’s been almost a year since that historic day and since then there have been some really important developments that constitute extremely important steps for constructing a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence not only in Nicosia but island-wide. A bottom up approach initiated by the civil society across the divide proves to be an important step towards building confidence and assisting the official negotiations that have been re-initiated between the political leaders of the two main communities.
On May 1st this year, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots held joint May Day celebrations for the first time in 56 years in the moat of the Venetian Walls in the UN controlled buffer zone in Nicosia. Almost 5000 people gathered to honor the international day of struggle and solidarity among workers and sent a strong message of unity and resistance against austerity measures, the deregulation of labor and the breakdown of the welfare state.
On April 18th more than 4000 Cypriots of different faiths and beliefs attended a Good Friday service at the Ayios Georgios Exorinos Church in the medieval city of Famagusta in the Turkish Cypriot administered northern part of Cyprus proving that interfaith dialogue is a process that can build bridges in the divided Mediterranean island.
People across Cyprus reaffirmed their willingness for reconciliation and peace. Events like the ones described above showed the path: the people of Cyprus can and will live all together because this is the beauty of our country!
To learn more about Nicosia, Cyprus, City of Peace: click here.
Loizos Loukaidis holds a BA in Primary Education from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece and an MA in Peace Education from the UN mandated University for Peace where he specifically sought to examine the viewing of History Teaching as a vehicle for promoting a Culture of Peace. Loizos is now a Primary School Teacher and is also actively involved in the peacebuilding process in Cyprus through his involvement in prominent organizations such as the POST Research Institute, the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research and the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Teachers' Platform "United Cyprus."
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This article appears in:
2014 Catalyst, Issue 11: International Cities of Peace - 1000 by 2020