Greek and Turkish Cypriot youths send message of friendship and peace

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot youths who take part in the Cyprus Friendship Programme, which promotes inter-communal friendship by organising among others summer trips in the US were cross-community pairs of teens are hosted by American families, have sent a message of friendship, cooperation and peaceful coexistence between the two communities in Cyprus.

Replying to CNA questions, Ambassador Andreas Pirishis who has recently taken over as the head of the Cyprus Peace Programme’s committee in Cyprus, said that he considers that it is one of the most effective ways to build trust and friendship between the communities.

His experience from the families who have taken part in the programme not just this year but also previously is that a very close relationship of friendship is formed between the children to begin with which is then also transferred to the parents.

Replying to question he said that 600 youths have taken part so far in the programme. This year 54 children from both communities were hosted in the United States.

Everyone returns thrilled, he added, clarifying that the programme also has a continuity about it with many other events taking place.

On Saturday, he said, a bicommunal group of teens will be going camping.

Another positive element of the programme according to Pirishis is the fact that the families hosting the Cypriot youths become so fond of them that they visit Cyprus to see them again.

The children act as young ambassadors of Cyprus in the society of the host country, he noted.

All the above show, both within Cyprus and abroad, that the two communities, can and want to live together, to create friendships, to cooperate and to have a common state, Pirishis points out.

All in all, its 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, 17-year-old Melina Ilarionos said addressing an event which took place at the US Embassy in Nicosia.

According to Melina 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.

Referring to the Cyprus Friendship Programme she said that for years it has been giving the opportunity to hundreds of young Cypriots across the island to “fight” for peace using love and knowledge instead of weapons.

We only want peace in this country, young Turkish Cypriot Hilmi Arica who took part in the programme last year. We want peace so that in the future we can live side by side again, he added.

According to Hilmi this country is ours; don’t forget that it belongs to all of us. Adding that we can live together again; we can live as one community.

Peace begins with a smile. Peace begins with a friendship. Peace begins with acceptance. Peace is in our hands, he noted.

The Cyprus Friendship Programme is an organisation of volunteers cooperating from both the north and south sides of Cyprus and is funded by private funds. According to its Website the Cyprus Friendship Program is based upon the successful all-volunteer Children’s Friendship Project for Northern Ireland, Inc. Peggy Barrett, a housewife in Pennsylvania, supported by her husband, Jack, founded CFPNI in 1987 based upon the simple vision that the divisions in Northern Ireland could only be overcome by building understanding, trust, and friendships between the teenaged leaders of the future from the two communities.

Source: Cyprus News Agency