By Christos P. Panayiotides

We have arrived, yet again, at Christmas, which we will celebrate next Saturday. At Christmas, we recall the innocence of the newborn baby, we launch a new beginning, we embark on a new course, not burdened with the sins of the past. Christmas is also the time of giving selfless gifts. It is an occasion for loving, caring and offering gifts as well as affection to others, children above all.

It is the feast of “giving without expecting anything in return”. The reciprocal of giving is accepting. It is the opportunity kids have to appreciate the fact that the real value of a gift is not measured by its market value but as a thing offered from the heart and as an expression of love and affection. Christmas is a joyous event that brings with it the hope for a better future.

So, in this spirit, we extend a hand of friendship and love to all our compatriots and especially those who in the past some of us have confronted or confronted us with feelings of hostility and dislike. I sincerely hope that this will be the message that will be transmitted by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus in the coming days.

On many occasions in the past, I have said in my articles that what the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots have in common and share far exceeds what keeps them apart. It is true that in the past atrocities have been committed, which have poisoned the relationship between the two communities. That these atrocities were committed by a small minority of mentally disturbed people does not reverse their impact.

However, Christianity is the religion of forgiveness. Christ says “if you forgive men for their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you”.

Likewise, Islam is also a religion of forgiveness. The Qur’an applauds forgiveness and states that if he who has been wronged, remains calm and forgives the injustice he has suffered, he will be rewarded by Allah.

Unfortunately, in both communities, there are still individuals who systematically seek to punish members of the other community that have committed deplorable acts, but they are also seeking revenge. And they do this in a way that stirs up the passions and the hatreds of the past. These people are not many, but they are very vocal, promoting their beliefs in a way that fosters hatred and revenge.

My hope is that the spirit of Christmas will drag us along the path of forgiveness and reconciliation because what unites us is much more than what keeps us apart. Securing a climate of peace and brotherhood in Cyprus is an obligation we have towards our children and our grandchildren.

Happy Holidays!

Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Sunday Mail and Alithia