The signpost is clear: “KYRENIA, 16 Miles.” Its brother at the other end of the line confirms it: “NICOSIA, 16 Miles.” But the journey between the two towns takes two hours, covers forty miles, and introduces the traveler to an aspect of Cyprus ignored in the brochures: the island’s intercommunal strife. The sixteen-mile direct route is taken twice daily by a United Nations convoy; at other times foreign motorists can go through by showing passports to the Turkish irregulars. To avoid the Turkish area Greek public transport takes the long detour, giving the wayfarer time to reflect on man’s inhumanity to man.
In area less than half the size of New Jersey, Cyprus is located in the eastern Mediterranean forty miles south of the Turkish coast. There nineteen centuries ago a magician was worsted, a governor converted, and a church founded by Paul and Barnabas. Its independence was recognized by the Council of Ephesus in 431 and confirmed by the Emperor Zeno in 488. Under Turkish rule from 1571, the island’s archbishop was regarded as ethnarch (governor) of the Greek population. With him the bishops of Paphos, Kition, and Kyrenia composed the holy synod.
There has always been a strong affinity with Greece, and during the Greek war of independence (1821) all the island’s bishops were among those hanged by the Turks. After the British occupation in 1878 the bishops continued to be regarded as the national leaders. During the bitter struggle that preceded independence (1960) the hierarchy actively supported the majority that sought enosis (union with Greece).
Of the population, estimated today at 665,000, Greek Cypriots account for 78 per cent, Turkish Cypriots for just over 18 per cent (hereafter in this essay called simply “Greeks” ...1