Cyprus – On Dec. 3 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took time out of his six-nation European tour to visit PeacePlayers International (PPI) and learn how their young leaders are using sport to unite the divided country. Secretary Kerry was in Cyprus for talks with Cypriot leaders to encourage progress toward ending the island’s 40-year conflict.
Recognizing the important role PPI has played as Cyprus’ only bi-communal sports peace building organization, Secretary Kerry chose to spend time with our young peace makers, telling reporters:
“Today I have witnessed that desire for change firsthand and I have seen a real passion for peace. I just came from a youth basketball practice game, scrimmage, not far from here, and the group was called PeacePlayers – young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots shooting hoops together… And with peace, someday that very group of kids may be building businesses together, opening joint NGOs, or even leading this island together.”
Cyprus has been physically divided by a United Nations Buffer Zone since an inter-ethnic war in 1974 split the island into two separate Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Today, many youth grow up without ever meeting anyone from the “other side.”
With key institutional partners like the U.S. Embassy, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, adidas and the European Union, PPI – Cyprus brings together thousands of children from both communities to play, learn, and build positive relationships. Explains PPI participant Alim Sancar:
“After 6 years of being a part of this organization and after meeting hundreds of Greek-Cypriots, I realized how much I want there to be peace and unity between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots.”
For many, the current peace talks are creating a new sense of hope. Last week leaders said they saw an opportunity to move toward a solution for the division, with one Cypriot official telling Reuters that the island was closer than ever to ending its partition, and the two sides could agree on the text of a deal by May.
To learn more about PPI and ways you can help, please visit our website at: http://www.peaceplayersintl.org