The Elders documentary: Cyprus – Digging the Past in Search of the Future

As Communications Director of The Elders, I worked closely with members of the CFP from 2009-2011, in the process of making a documentary film in Cyprus on the very sensitive issue of missing persons.  The film followed three Elders – Jimmy Carter, Lakhdar Brahimi and Desmond Tutu – and four teenage members of CFP from the north and south of the island, as they learned about the hundreds of Cypriots from both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities who have been missing for decades.  They visited exhumation sites together, saw a forensic laboratory where the remains of the missing are identified, and spoke to relatives of two men who had lost their fathers at the age of five.

The young CFP members, Idil, Thalia, Tayfun and Michael, are the stars of the film.  Their compassion, intelligence and maturity impressed us all, especially the Elders with whom they formed warm and lasting bonds.  The film has sparked the creation of an entirely new educational package for schools in Cyprus.

The four teenagers we worked with are part of an important movement in Cyprus that deserves greater recognition and support.  CFP’s coordinators are persistent, principled and creative activists who are bridging divides where political processes have failed and who are undeterred by threats from those who seek to undermine their work.  It is to their credit that the programme has been such a success without funding from any government or political party.

The CFP model, pairing teenagers and their families through sustained activities and interaction, is going from strength to strength.  From around 20 pairs of teenagers in 2009, CFP has more than quadrupled in size in just a few years.  Among the young people who take part in CFP are, I believe, potential Cypriot leaders of the future.  What is most remarkable is the genuine bond and mutual understanding that CFP fosters between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot families.

As Desmond Tutu says toward the end of the film, “they have grown to accept one another in a way that seems to be an image of what is possible on this island.”

Katy Cronin
Communications Director, The Elders
20 November 2011
The four CFP Teens Remember

Idil Cazimoglu: “Archbishop Desmond Tutu did not run away from adversities. Instead, he used his understanding of the feelings of communities torn by conflict to advocate for peace and to help them undertake difficult healing processes. His strength, frankness, and caring will continue to be an inspiration for us all.”
Thalia Ioannidou: “As I reflect back on the time I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the first time, all I can think about is his infectious laughter and humour. But more importantly, the impact he has had on the way I perceive forgiveness and the importance of acceptance which has helped me grow over the years. I will forever be grateful for the time he took to visit my small island and understand its deep and complicated history, and the encouragement he offered to us then, as young teenagers, to continue to believe in and fight for our vision of a united island. A true inspirational leader whose wisdom and words will forever be remembered  my condolences to his family and loved ones.”
Tayfun Altaner: “One of a kind soul that touched my heart while filming in Cyprus. Wise and understanding. I am truly honoured to have had a chance like this. The memories that we created will be in my heart forever. Thank you for inspiring me, Desmond Tutu.”
Michael Panayi: “Archbishop Tutu had an uncanny ability to make people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I always thought it was just an endearing quality of his I realise now it was at the very core of the peace he irradiated. His peace-building was local, personal, and intimate.”