Being the other, or at least feeling like the other, can come in many forms. It is a topic I keep returning to (including here in a very early blog post in 2015).
In Cyprus, where the dominant community is Greek Cypriot and also Greek Orthodox, belonging to another community or religion can sometimes feel somewhat isolating.
I was recently tasked with the role of maid of honour (koumera/κουμέρα) for a friend of mine. For months now the only thought on my mind was the church. What would I need to do during the ceremony? Anything? Everything?
I once attended a christening where I was asked to uncross my legs (by a priest or a priest’s assistant). Is it not unfair to imagine that every citizen of this island is either Greek Orthodox or perfectly familiar with the traditions of a particular denomination of Christianity? Are all Greek Cypriots familiar with the traditions and practices of all the other religions/denominations on the island?
The younger generation may not actually take heed of what the archbishop says or even go to church, but tradition and social pressures mean that most people do not dare speak out against the church; a stark reminder of the church’s long-standing influence.
Feeling like the other or indeed being the other can feel all the more entrenched in daily life when certain traditions and/or institutions reinforce that sentiment. Where ‘Cypriot’ oftentimes refers to being a member of the Greek Cypriot community, with all other communities falling by the wayside.
Our beautiful culturally diverse island consists of five communities, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Latins, Maronites and Armenians. And as a result, it also consists of a number of different religions, various denominations of Christianity including Greek Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as well as Islam*.
I am embarrassed to say that the first time I attended a Maronite church service was a year and a half ago, and only as I happened to be in Kormakitis for a choir concert with Kibris Havalari/Cyprus Songs Association.
Part of living on this diverse island and calling yourself a Cypriot means being responsible for getting to know the other communities and their traditions, be they Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Latin, Maronite or Armenian. Doesn’t it?
Many Turkish Cypriots – especially the younger generation –are not practicing Muslims, being considered Muslim only nominally.
- Response to Ersin Tatar – Financial Times article
- A second first time
Well put. What do you think about the efforts of Swedes who facilitate religious leaders to meet and bridge communities on the island? Do you think does it worth? How about imams not having at all any status or any place of wisdom among TC?
I fully support the religious leaders of the island coming together. However, I do believe that a lot of the time their activities are either not known by the general public or overshadowed by negative news, usually pertaining to the archbishop (or any other bishop).
Regarding your second question, this is simply the path chosen by TCs. With regard to all communities of Cyprus though, I don’t believe any religious leader should dictate to the general public.
I remember the curiosity of the GCs when I landed in Potamia. Ooh! A foreigner and a Catholic. “How do you make the sign of the cross?” And many other questions. I was a curiosity to say the least especially when I turned up for Easter Mass.