By Hermes Solomon
EASTER Week is here. Liturgies are broadcast live on three of the five main TV channels from 7.00 pm to 8.45 pm. Holy Week takes precedence over all living things; psalters and priests, altars and incense burners dominate our screens – Christ will be crucified by Friday and resurrected Saturday midnight. Lenten fasting ends and lambs are skewered on Monday.
For the pious, the Holy Week is a relief, respite from pointless political rhetoric, the Cyprob, corrupt officialdom, worldwide disasters, wars and famines. A time when families come together to share in the sorrow and festivities of our religion. Family graves are revisited, spruced up. Tears are shed for the departed and religious indoctrination is reinforced.
Do not underestimate the power of the Church. The Church is master of the Republic and its people.
The Church will greatly influence how the majority vote in any forthcoming referendum on a Cyprob solution.
In a play-off ahead of the vote, DIKO will be supported by Citizen’s Alliance (leader, Giorgios Lillikas, runner-up at the last presidential elections) EDEK, recently formed EVROKO/Eleni Theocharous alliance (Allileggii) and the Greens, their number of seats collectively in the House easily out-gunned today by any DISY/AKEL alliance.
But then there is the Church, whose final sermons prior to any referendum will be of paramount importance.
Just look how packed all churches are every Sunday morning between 9.00 and 10.00 am – cars galore blocking main roads with impunity.
I turned up at 9.30 am for the memorial ‘mention’ of a departed close friend and was subjected to a tirade of Pan-Hellenic propaganda during the priest’s sermon. After ten minutes, I walked out, foregoing a handful of ‘kolifa’. Nobody else did! They sat like sheep listening, mesmerised in their Sunday best, leaving unruly kids to roam noisily. It was as if the adult congregation was gagged, strapped into strait jackets – all of them.
Politicians are capricious – tools controlled by ‘big business, corruption and self-interest. But the Church is constant. We ‘sheep’ trust the Church. We ‘sheep’ feel secure inside God’s House. We ‘sheep’ beg to be penned-up forever in this fantasy world. We no longer trust politicians, no longer take any notice of political rhetoric. We vote thoughtlessly for the party we’ve always voted for. No amount of persuasion will change the majority of voters’ ingrained habits.
Political columnists and others claim Greek Cypriot voters are unsophisticated. But we are no less or more than any other electorate. We are as guided by priests’ sermons today as were medieval parishioners. Few of us are worldly. Few distinguish between left and right. Few were able to predict the 1974 coup followed by the Turkish ‘interminable’ intervention. Few changed their religion thereafter, secured by liturgical routine and familiarity. Most, like I, practice Greek Orthodoxy through habit rather than belief.
Political parties come and go, but the Orthodox Church has been constant since 320 AD, and Greek Cypriot voters hang onto it like the drowning, fearing that without it, they will drown.
This is not the case for Turkish Cypriots, who submit to the rhetoric of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and not their imams.
But many of us have forgotten the rhetoric of the island’s first gently persuasive president, a man who enjoyed god-like status, Archbishop Makarios III – a status indistinguishable from that enjoyed by Fidel Castro in Cuba, and other initially hailed leaders too many to mention.
Political parties will argue for the sake of it – just to be heard and justify their existence, indifferent to the collateral damage they cause. But Makarios III failed to keep the two sides together; if anything, many accuse him of separating Greek and Turkish Cypriots definitively – a disharmonious force rather than harmonious.
Many who lost their homes and livelihoods in 1974 now blame him, but still religiously attend Sunday liturgies. For them, the Church is inviolable; Makarios was the son of a shepherd and not godlike at all. A man who sewed gold thread into cassocks and thickly painted gold leaf onto icons, chandeliers, altars; the cradle of Greek Cypriot nepotism, cronyism, dispensing favours and fortune to a select few.
Conspicuously favouring Greek above Turkish Cypriots – Christianity above Islam – led to massacre and melancholy from 1963 to 1974, and will again if priests persist in preaching those same sermons they preached back then.
Add to that our pseudo patriotic elite caught stuffing their pockets guiltlessly this past 56 years and you have, this time around, a seriously disillusioned, distrustful and indecisive electorate, many of whom will abstain from voting at forthcoming legislative elections!
A small turnout (less than 50 percent) is a vote of no confidence in the House, leaving the Church in total command. And if so, let’s hope Recep’s rhetoric and priests’ sermons prior to a referendum preach peace, harmony and reunification…
If Recep does, and the Synod says priests must, the ayes in favour of reunification will have it!