Testimonial: Kontea Church Courtyard Restoration Ceremony
By: Jenne Krey, Germany (Engage-on-the-Move volunteer team)
A few minutes after crossing the check point at Pyla in the morning of December 8th, 2012 people began to get excited. The entire bus began to fill with whispers that soon became open public speeches. Many people were exchanging stories. I heard one older woman describe her first detention in 3rd grade. She laughed, we laughed and the group suddenly became much closer. The church of St. Charalambos seemed to be of special importance to the Greek Cypriot locals because as we parked the excited exchange of childhood memories were collectively directed to various joyous festivals they had experienced at the same church standing before them. Once we unpacked and the other buses from Limassol and Larnaca arrived, the volunteers had a chance to actually take in the space. Our group from the bus had been joined by another 100 or so people that were all walking in and out of the church and around the courtyard, pointing to various details and smiling.
When visiting the interior of the church I got to hear various reactions from the locals. Most were impressed with the actual physical restoration, others immediately expressed the urgent need for the development of projects like this, all across the island. Many mentioned Apostolos Andreas as an example, and although the guests were genuinely happy to be there, moments of nostalgia could be seen clearly, especially within the church walls.
Hearing the locals share their memories and discussing the concept of peace with the Engage team, highlighted the fact that I was witnessing history in the making. The fact that so many people had gathered to see a small part of a village restored, made me realise that in Cyprus there is a strong love for simple beauty. All generations from both communities seem to be authentically connected with their history and culture.
When one of the hosts mentioned in her welcoming speech that the restored courtyard was once used for festivals during Easter and Christmas and various other Orthodox holidays, I looked across the area and took a snapshot. True this was one of many ‘panagiria’ I have experienced in Cyprus but this time the courtyard was filled with people and music for the first time in years. Children were writing their messages for peace on our flipchart. Architects and engineers from the Kontea Heritage Foundation were introducing us to their families and it seemed all participants fully realised the significance of the entire experience.
It was an honour to be a part of a true peace-building event in a country like Cyprus. I hope this project – that was so well executed by both communities in a small village like Kontea, can be used as an example and taken to new levels, throughout the island.