Today’s blog is written by PPI-SA Coach Gabriela Gokova who, last month, took part in the Cyprus Interregional Peace Camp last month.
Knowing that I was going to Cyprus was one of the most exciting things in my life. Getting to travel to this beautiful island was an amazing opportunity. I learned a lot that I would like to share with you all.
I am originally from Zimbabwe and have now been living in South Africa for 8 years. Here in Africa, we have a tendency of thinking that we have the most problems. We believe that overseas everything is okay, or they don’t have as many problems as we do, of which, this is absolutely not true. During my week in Cyprus I learned about the issues facing other PPI Sites. Cyprus remains divided in two (Northern Cyprus and Southern Cyprus) but I also learned about the feuds in Northern Island and the Middle East.
Cyprus is an island in Europe divided between Northern Cyprus and Southern Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots occupy Southern Cyprus and the Turkish occupy Northern Cyprus. The reason for this being that both Turkey and Greece wanted to rule Cyprus, therefore there was a war 1974 in Cyprus. As a result of the two communities and the guarantor countries committing themselves to finding a peaceful solution to the dispute, the United Nations maintain a buffer zone (the “Green Line”) to avoid any further inter-communal tensions and hostilities. This zone separates the free, southern areas of the Republic of Cyprus (predominately inhabited by Greek Cypriots), from the northern areas (where Turkish Cypriots along with Turkish settlers are now a majority).
This conflict was primarily a political one, but it also had an ethnic or sectarian dimension, although it was not a religious conflict. A key issue was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Unionists/loyalists, who are mostly Protestants and consider themselves British, generally wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. Irish nationalists/republicans, who are mostly Roman Catholics and view themselves as Irish, generally wanted to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland. Another key issue was the relationship between these two communities. The conflict began amid a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic/nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist-dominated government and police force.
Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that
hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine, and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled. They tried having peace negotiations but the peace negotiations fell apart, and earlier this year, the conflict escalated to a full-on war between Israel and Hamas. The primary approach to solving the conflict today is a so-called “two-state solution” that would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel. Though the two-state plan is clear in theory, the two sides are still deeply divided over how to make it work in practice.
Learning about all these conflicts, I came back motivated to inspire change. I feel empowered by the strength of others to survive, maintain humanity and stay humble. It’s the same strength I see demonstrated at PPI-SA day in and day out. I’ve already began applying the knowledge I gained over the camp at my weekly practices at Carrington Primary School and with my fellow coaches.
I want to end by thanking PeacePlayers International and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. We share the mission of empowering youth through sport. If we install the idea of peace into our youth now, they will grow up wanting to make peace in their communities, making the world a better place. The little good we do for others contribute not only to those we impact but to their loved ones as well. We believe that “children who play together can learn to live together.” This is true as I see it every day through my kids that I coach and experienced it when I went to Cyprus.