Ahead of his return to Cyprus, Desmond Tutu blogs about achieving peace and reconciliation through honest dialogue.
How sorry I was that I could not visit Cyprus with my fellow Elders, Gro Brundtland and Lakhdar Brahimi, in September. I suffered a back injury that kept me bedridden in South Africa; if only I were as young in body as I feel in spirit! My family are always telling me to slow down, but somehow I never quite manage it.
So it is a joy to be coming back to Cyprus, a place that really made an impression on me when I visited a year ago, just as your two leaders were beginning negotiations to reunite this beautiful island.
The past year has demonstrated just how difficult it is to achieve lasting peace. There are highs; there are lows; there are moments when the wheels seem interminably stuck in the sand. I therefore have nothing but admiration for the perseverance of Mr Christofias and Mr Talat; their work is bold and courageous.
In South Africa there were moments when ending the injustice of apartheid seemed a long way off. But it was the momentum generated by ordinary people that really kept our spirits up and, I believe, made a huge difference.
In Cyprus there is so much scope for everyone – whether as individuals or through community groups, unions, businesses, the arts and media, to widen the debate and discuss your future more openly. Vigorous debate is healthy and necessary in any society. Goodness knows there’s plenty of it in my own country!
One thing is for certain, honest dialogue is essential. How can we even begin to heal the wounds of the past, to get to know our neighbours, to overcome our anxieties, if we are not honest with each other? Honesty is not easy. Openness is not easy. We sometimes learn uncomfortable truths about ourselves. But we also learn to open our eyes to the wonderful things that we human beings are capable of. Peace, most assuredly, is one of them.
Getting ordinary people involved and excited about the peace process is the best way to support the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in bringing about a more prosperous, peaceful and secure future for Cyprus. That’s why I’m really looking forward to meeting and hearing the thoughts of different people from throughout the island, especially young people. If we can do anything to get people talking, I’ll be delighted.
We have some really interesting things planned for this trip, which you will be able to find out more about on this blog, and I invite you to add your thoughts and comments. Start the talking here!
My grandchildren can’t quite believe that I’m blogging. But that’s the best thing about the internet – those of us getting older in body but young in spirit can use it all the same!