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” and “Turks”). There are other tiny minorities, notably Armenians and Maronites.

In the latter part of 1958, when Cyprus was still a British crown colony, Archbishop Makarios proposed that after a fixed period of self-government Cyprus should become an independent state. Finally the governments of Greece and Turkey, meeting in Zurich, produced a solution that was approved by Britain and signed in London by the archbishop.

The chief features of this agreement stipulated that Cyprus would not participate in a political or economic union with any other state, nor would it be subject to partition. There was to be a Greek president and a Turkish vice-president, with a council of ministers made up of seven Greeks and three Turks. The same ratio obtained in the fifty-member House of Representatives, in the civil service, and in the security forces. In the army it was to be sixty-forty. The five principal towns were to be partitioned into Greek and Turkish municipalities. In the highest courts the presiding judge who would hold the balance between both sides would be neither Greek nor Turk. Britain would retain two military bases. Britain, Greece, and Turkey undertook to maintain the constitutional and territorial integrity of Cyprus.

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For the Turkish minority this seemed to be a handsome settlement that safeguarded its interests. Archbishop Makarios became president, Dr. Fazil Kutchuk vice-president. Independence came in August, 1960, and Cyprus joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961.

All seemed well, but the dream of enosis had not faded with independence—not surprisingly, for at his enthronement as archbishop in 1950 Makarios had sworn not to rest until union with Greece was achieved. Thus was reflected the sombre fact that down through the centuries there had been no integration of the two communities. Mixed marriage was unthinkable. Turkish and Greek village quarters are nearly always separate. They have different coffee shops, clubs, social and cultural centers. “Have you ever been invited to one of their homes?” I asked one professional man. An emphatic negative. “Are there ever any sporting events between the two communities?” No. “What about membership of your national soccer team?” Only Greeks represent Cyprus. A common Muslim allegation is that in flagrant violation of basic Christian principles, Greek children were brought up at home, educated in school, and indoctrinated in church to hate the Turk.

By the fall of 1963 the constitution had become unworkable because of difficulties between the two sides. Dr. Kutchuk complained that Turks were being discriminated against in the civil service and had difficulty using facilities that were readily available to Greeks. Open violence broke out in December, 1963. The well organized and equipped Greek paramilitary forces blamed the heavily outnumbered Turks for firing first in Nicosia. There were appalling scenes of massacre in various parts of the island, and only the (requested) intervention of British troops prevented full-scale civil war (they were followed by a U. N. peacekeeping force that has been in Cyprus ever since).

On January 1, 1964, Makarios abrogated the treaty he had signed in London five years earlier. “Such tearing up of international Treaties has not been unknown in recent European history,” says his biographer coolly, without adding that Adolf Hitler was a notable example. The same writer declares curiously that the London episode was a mistake, “like an invitation to a shotgun wedding, and it was fortunate that Makarios was a clergyman.”

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In 1964 there was further trouble in northwestern Cyprus. The Turks cited 25,000 refugees whose properties had been looted, burnt, or destroyed by Greek bulldozers, and a casualty list of 600 killed and 210 missing. That year, the fifteen Turkish delegates withdrew from the House of Representatives, and the government was completely in the hands of the Greek majority, where it still remains.

The Turks drew up a proposed plan of federation or cantonization after the Swiss manner as the basis of a solution. Stated the Turkish Communal Chamber: “The Greek leadership will never refrain from the use of force and brutal methods to exterminate the Turkish community in Cyprus—as the Nazis did against the Jews.” This might be dismissed as propaganda had not Makarios come close to endorsing it in an address in his home village of Panaia: “The duty of the heroes of EOKA will never terminate until the minor group of Turks who have ever been the enemy of Hellenism throughout history are thrown away from Cyprus” (EOKA = Ethniki Organosis Kypriakou Agonos, “National Organization of Cypriot Struggle”).

Turkey, restlessly pacing the wings, took reprisals on the mainland: expulsions of Greeks, investigation of the (Orthodox) Ecumenical Patriarchate, and renewed persecution of Christian missionaries. Muslim resentment was extended from Orthodox to all Christians, thus inhibiting the preaching of the Gospel, which enjoins love to one’s neighbor as a chief commandment. It might be added that in Cyprus itself the troubles have restricted evangelical activity. Worship is still freely permitted, but on my recent visit a veteran worker told of past years when open-air meetings were possible, arousing great interest among both Greeks and Turks.

However opportunistic Turkish reaction may have been, the devastation and the refugees in Cyprus were very real. In May, 1965, I visited a refugee camp that held 3,000 Turks dislodged from their homes, many having lost all their possessions. Some, admittedly, were there because Turkish extremists had compelled them to move out of mixed communities. The British army had made tents available, and a few improvised hut-blocks housed families with small children. I entered one medium-size room that contained eleven members of one family. I saw representatives of the Turkish Red Crescent handing out modest rations—cereal, beans, potatoes, and bread—to many who had once been prosperous. The camp was manifestly overcrowded, but a year earlier it had held twice the number in dreadful conditions. “Thank God,” said a Turkish official, “there was no epidemic.”

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During the previous year, a pastor in Germany wrote to the general secretary of the World Council of Churches about the Cyprus situation, raising the question of the discreditable involvement of the Orthodox Church. In his reply Dr. Visser’t Hooft wrote (I translate the German): “It is not the task of the World Council of Churches to judge the acts of the member churches.” There were, he went on, very different points of view about the Cyprus problem—“wide circles find unpalatable the fact that a church leader is at the same time leader of a nation,” but that was a Western viewpoint. Both Greeks and Turks were at fault, but the Zurich Treaty had “only enlarged the difficulties.”

I give that without comment, but meanwhile did that mean that the WCC’s refugee department was doing nothing for the Muslim refugees I had seen? On my way home from Cyprus I stopped off in Geneva to ask. Courteously a senior official at the WCC headquarters denied knowledge of a Turkish refugee camp in Cyprus, but took my word for it. So far as I am aware nothing was done; perhaps it was not the task of the WCC to take steps that would offend a member church.

Late in 1967, serious fighting again broke out that brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war, and brought Makarios a promise of Russian intervention if necessary. Since then there have been isolated incidents, but many Turks are convinced that the Greeks have now settled for a war of attrition, wherein more oblique harassment might make the Turks ready to accept constitutional amendments to their disadvantage. Turks complain that since December, 1963, all the financial resources of the republic have been diverted by the Greek administration for the benefit of Greeks only. Turks are denied the right to social security and pensions rightfully earned. All financial and technical aid intended for the Cypriot people from the U. N. and its specialized agencies had from 1963 been withheld from the Turks, and since 1968 only partially restored. Intercommunal talks have been held since 1968 but are currently deadlocked.

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To write about Cyprus is not easy, partly because of the complexity of the situation, partly because of the marked (but understandable) unhelpfulness I experienced in Nicosia from British and American information agencies, but also because of my dismay, felt in 1965 and recently renewed in Nicosia, that the dual role of Makarios should perpetuate old antagonisms. That one man should officially represent both church and state calls for a Solomonic wisdom and impartiality that the president/archbishop shows little signs of possessing.

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” is a word that the apostles may well have proclaimed to the Cypriot proconsul Sergius Paulus. Makarios and his troubled island vividly demonstrate the folly of ignoring that divine injunction.

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