The aim of this research project is to investigate the past and current role of the Orthodox Church vis-à-vis the Cyprus Conflict. In particular, it will focus on the relationship between the Church and peace education. Peace education refers to both formal (e.g. revised history textbooks) and informal (e.g. bicommunal events), past, present and potential initiatives that aim to bridge the ‘knowledge gap' that exists between the two sides. The discursive struggle over what peace education means is often played out in and between institutional contexts such as the school, religion, the media and family. It is therefore imperative to elucidate power struggles over particular meanings and policies of peace education in conflict-regions, not only to better understand the obstacles to change, but also to highlight possibilities for peacebuilding that have been ignored by existing academic literature.
Since Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, and with its first president being an Orthodox Archbishop (Makarios III), the role of the Church in the Cyprus Conflict has predominantly been viewed through a rather negative lens, in academic and non-academic peacebuilding discourse alike. It has been, and continues to be, heavily criticised for promoting ethnic nationalism, a strong affiliation with the Greek ‘motherland’, and even inciting hatred against the Turks and Turkish-Cypriots. However, this depiction of religion and the Orthodox Church or faith is too simplistic and needs to be problematised as it dismisses a very central and constructive role that religious civil society can play as part of the bottom-up peacebuilding process. This project aims to expose the complexity of the role of the Church, and to show how current hegemonic discourses underestimate the hybridity that exists in marginalised discourses of religious actors, and the ways in which these can contribute to the peacebuilding process.
The project uses the theoretical framework of ‘securitisation of peace education’ (Christodoulou, 2014), in order to examine whether the Church is a ‘securitising’ or ‘desecuritising’ actor i.e. if it presents changes to educational media and policies as a threat to the survival of the Greek-Cypriots, and hence, a security issue, or if it exhibits constructive attitudes towards educational changes. These representations are analysed on two empirical levels: discursive representations in a) textbooks and b) in society.
Textbook analysis: The first research strand will investigate how religion and the Orthodox Church are currently being portrayed in history textbooks, and what potential these representations have in terms of exacerbating conflict or building peace.
Societal analysis: The second research strand will investigate the attitudes of religious actors generally towards peace education, but also the role that religious actors play in decisions regarding history textbooks in Cyprus, and how/why this has changed in recent years. What role does the Orthodox Church attribute to history textbooks (e.g. to promote national identity/historical memory/tradition)? In what ways can the Orthodox Church contribute to peace education in Cyprus, both theoretically (through its doctrine) and empirically?