Throw ‘counterfeit’ history books away – Archbishop
By Philippos Stylianou
IN THE most serious development yet concerning the history books controversy, Archbishop Chrysostomos yesterday said the Church would call on pupils to throw away any textbooks ‘counterfeiting’ the history of the country.
Cyprus Weekly 13.11.2008
Asked about the government’s decision to introduce changes to school books on the island’s recent history, during a press conference he gave at the Archbishopric on a forthcoming inter-religious congress, he said: “As the Church, our position is clear. We shall not permit history to be counterfeited. We shall oppose it to the point of inviting the children to throw away such books that contain a counterfeited history of our country.”
Government Spokesman Stefanos Stefanou, commenting on the Archbishop’s statement at yesterday’s briefing, said that some people for certain reasons maintained a non-existent issue, which did not occupy the government at present but the education reform committee.
He said the committee had been formed a few months ago under a prominent Greek academic and its work was based on dialogue and consensus.
“All this talk about de-Hellenising Cyprus and what not, is causing unrest, which is totally unnecessary for a place like Cyprus,” the Spokesman said.
In pursuance of its election programme, the Christofias government had set about creating new school syllabuses but the leak of an unofficial suggestion describing the anti-colonial EOKA struggle as ‘national extremism’ provoked strong reaction from all sides except the President’s own party Akel.
Ruling partners Diko and Edek came out openly against history changes, at least sweeping ones, and even right-wing Disy, which sided with Christofias on the Cyprus problem, was forced to rattle its sabre.
They claimed that Christofias’ government was trying to justify communist Akel’s policy on the Cyprus problem and hide its historical responsibilities at the expense of everybody else.
President Christofias, in a public speech braved criticism, saying that if the children were not told what really happened in their country, they might not become proper fighters capable of good judgment themselves.
“Consequently, only those who will not contribute correctly to allow the truth to shine have cause to fear,” he said.
He added: “I repeat, the Educational Reform will take place. Nothing reproachful will come from the Education Ministry. The dialogue will continue and I hope society as a whole will assist in this dialogue.”
In a recent interview with the daily Simerini Education and Culture Minister Andreas Demetriou gave assurances that the team of historians to undertake the compilation of the history material would be commonly acceptable and beyond reproach. He added that the names he had in mind would meet with the approval of all the parties.
Archbishop’s Chrysostomos’s ominous warning about the history books follows another controversial statement he made recently to the effect that the crossings at the checkpoints should be closed if nothing came out of the talks.
Asked by TV channels to comment on this statement upon his return from Beijing, President Christofias shook his head and noted: “He has said that too, has he?”
At yesterday’s press conference, the Archbishop said that although he had not seen the TV footage himself, he was told that President Christofias was being ironic.
“I don’t mind this,” he said, “but if he had paid attention to my statements perhaps he would not have pulled a face.”
He explained that what he meant was that without a solution, the settlers would keep streaming in the occupied areas and the EU and the UN should be averted about the danger of Cyprus being Turkified.
The Archbishop criticised President Christofias for talking about a forthcoming solution while the occupation regime and Ankara kept talking about a permanent stationing of Turkish troops with intervention rights, about a new state emerging from a ‘virgin birth’ and the settlers pouring incessantly in.
“These things do not match; how are we heading for a solution like this?” he wondered.