When I attended the screening of the Elders’ documentary Cyprus: Digging the Past in Search of the Future at the UK Parliament, I was reminded of my visit as UK Minister for Europe to Sarajevo to the International Commission on Missing Persons.
I learned there that of the estimated 40,000 people missing from the Balkan conflict more than 15,000 have been exhumed and identified. The work is slow and painstaking – bones are reassembled and DNA tests carried out which are matched with surviving relatives. This provides thousands of grieving people with the closure they so desperately seek.
The Elders’ excellent film tells us about the journey of the four young Cypriots from the north and the south of the island who have learned, and understand, that after the conflicts in Cyprus there has to be the catharsis of tracing missing victims – but that reconciliation must be a priority.
Moving on from past violence is never easy or straightforward but the young people understand the need to build respect and trust between their communities. They show remarkable maturity and, whilst they understand the grievances of the older generation, they call for efforts to end the mistrust which stands in the in the way of reconciliation.
Above all, the film shows that older people do not have a monopoly of wisdom. We see four young Cypriots who believe that it is possible to advance from conflict and division by acknowledging the pain of the past and articulating a shared vision for the future.
Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.