REMARKS BY THE AMBASSADOR ON RECEIVING THE PRESIDENT'S AWARD FROM THE N.C.C.C
REMARKS BY THE AMBASSADOR OF CYPRUS TO THE UNITED STATES
MRS. ERATO KOZAKOU-MARCOULLIS
UPON ACCEPTING THE PRESIDENT'S AWARD FROM THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN THE U.S.
FOR HER WORK AND VISION IN "SEEKING JUSTICE, WORKING FOR PEACE" TAMPA, FLORIDA, NOVEMBER 16, 2002
It is with true humility that I accept the President's award from the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. I accept it as a symbolic demonstration of your support and your commitment to peace and to justice.
I am also grateful to your outstanding President and my dear friend, Elenie Huszagh, for her warm words and for giving me the opportunity to be with you these past few days and share with you a wide range of stimulating experiences and ideas.
I know that after four days of deliberations in this Conference you would not want to listen to another long speech. Being mindful of this reality I can assure you from the start that I will be very brief and to the point.
My only wish is to be able to share with you Cyprus' vision, which totally reflects the theme of your General Assembly this year: "For the Common Good: Seeking Justice, Working For Peace".
But, as a way of introduction, let me first say that Cyprus, an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, may be a small country, the size of Connecticut, but with 10,000 years of history and civilization, that make us Cypriots feel very proud as a people.
Cyprus became the very first country to be governed by a Christian ruler, when in 45 AD Apostles Paul and Barrabas, the Hierarchs of the Church of Cyprus, brought Christianity to the island and converted the then Roman Governor to Christianity.
Cyprus, known also as the island of the Saints, has been blessed by a large number of Saints and other martyrs of Christianity of Cypriot descent, who are being worshiped throughout the country. Evidence of this are the thousands of churches and monasteries spread from north to south, from east to west, which bare their name.
For the past 29 years our island nation, which consists of 80% Greek Orthodox Christians, 18% Turkish Moslems and the remaining 2% Armenians, Maronites and Latins, has remained tragically divided as a result of a military invasion and occupation of 37 percent of its territory by Turkey in 1974.
One of the most tragic consequences of this occupation has been the fate of the 502 churches and 17 monasteries in the occupied area.
I shall not expand on the destruction and desecration of these holy places, which represent our collective religious conscience as Christians, but simply mention some tragic findings that demonstrate the extend of this unacceptable situation:
133 churches, monasteries and chapels have been desecrated
77 churches have been converted into mosques
18 are used as depots, dormitories or hospitals of the occupation forces
13 are used as stockyards or hay barns
One Armenian Monastery has been converted into a hotel
At the same time the systematic looting and destruction of priceless icons, frescoes and mosaics, some of which are rare works of religious art of the early Christian period, continue with impunity.
For the past 29 years our strong desire and continued effort has been to heal the wounds of the past and to reunify our country and our people. But the shameful wall of division and the barbed wires maintained by the occupation, have stood in the way and have prevented reunification.
Our vision goes hand in hand with your Conference?s theme:" For the Common Good Seeking Justice, Working for Peace".
We want to see our people, Christians and Moslems, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins, build a common home in unity and cooperation. We want to build bridges of understanding and tolerance that will remove the mistrust and enmity of the past and inspire a new thinking of coexistence and harmony of purpose.
To achieve this, we need to create a solid foundation based on Justice and the rule of law, where the human rights of every citizen of Cyprus, including religious rights, will be fully protected and safeguarded in a free and democratic society.
To achieve this goal we need peace which should prevail in an environment of demilitarization and confidence building, in the development of a culture of inclusion and respect for the identity and dignity of every human being.
Cyprus is now moving rapidly towards membership in the European Union, anticipated to take effect early in 2004. This European Union process has acted as a catalyst for the reunification of the country and for an end to the tragic division that has brought so much pain and suffering to our people.
There is currently a renewed effort of the International Community to solve this problem. The UN Secretary General has recently submitted a comprehensive plan for a Cyprus settlement, which is now before the two sides for study and reflection.
While we cannot foresee the outcome of this new initiative, we express the hope that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership will realize the many benefits of achieving a Cyprus settlement based on the UN Security Council resolutions and Cyprus becoming a member of the European Union as a reunited country, "for the Common Good, for Seeking Justice and for Working for Peace". This is the only way that the wounds of the past could be healed and we could all work for the prosperity, peace and security of our common homeland.
With the Middle East in turmoil and the war against international terrorism at its height, a reunited Cyprus can serve as a powerful example of coexistence of civilizations, coexistence and cooperation between Christians and Moslems.
At this crucial moment of our history we know that we can count on true friends in this great country and we consider your organization as definitely one of them.
Thank you for the honor bestowed upon me today, which I accept as a reflection of your support for the Common Good, for Seeking Justice and Working for Peace throughout the world, including Cyprus and its people.