A Memorandum of Cooperation for the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism was signed on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, in Nicosia, at the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth of Cyprus (YPAN).

The Memorandum was signed between the Ministries of Education of Greece and Cyprus, the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) and the Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) and provides for the implementation of actions aimed at preserving the memory of the Holocaust and combating anti-Semitism and any form of racism.

The actions resulting from the Memorandum concern the realization of seminars, the creation of a joint digital platform for collaborating educators in Cyprus and Greece and the undertaking of educational initiatives, such as an annual student competition on the Holocaust, the organization of visits by school units and the implementation of related initiatives by the students. The Memorandum also provides for the formation of a joint working committee in which the six involved parties will be represented and which will identify and further specify the fields of cooperation between them.

The Memorandum was signed by the Minister of Education of Cyprus Athena Michaelidou, the Archbishop of Cyprus Georgios, on behalf of the Ministry of Education of Greece, the General Secretary for Religious Affairs George Kalantzis, on behalf of the Church of Greece, the Metropolitan of Maroneia and Komotini Panteleimon, on behalf of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, the General Secretary of the Board of Directors Victor Isaak Eliezer and on behalf of the Jewish Museum of Greece its President Mikis Modiano.

The Cypriot Minister of Education Mrs. Michaelidou said in her speech that the "Memorandum of Cooperation, which we are signing today, will strengthen and declare the determination and will of all parties, not only to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, but also to fight against every modern form of anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance".

She indicated that this is one of the objectives of the Cooperation Program in the field of Education between the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth of the Republic of Cyprus and the Ministry of Education, Religion and Sports of the Hellenic Republic, which was signed, last December, with her Greek counterpart, Kyriakos Pierrakakis. Ms. Michailidou also stated that through interfaith dialogue and preserving the collective memory of the Holocaust "we can protect society and create a better world". In addition, she expressed her satisfaction for the strengthening of ties between the contracting parties and for the further undertaking of actions, with the aim of preserving the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism, which are achieved through the signing of the Memorandum.

Minister Michaelidou stated that the Republic of Cyprus participates as an observer in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), in order to help strengthen efforts to promote and encourage actions to study and preserve this memory.

The Cypriot Minister of Education added that the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth has in recent years instituted an annual competition in Secondary Education to commemorate the Holocaust, while, in collaboration with the World Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem, traveling exhibitions on the Holocaust are hosted and displayed in schools of Cyprus.

She also mentioned that a new exhibition entitled "Stars without Heaven - Children in the Holocaust" will be added to the existing ones, at the initiative of the relevant History Analytical Programs Group.

In addition, she said that a group of teachers from Cyprus visits the Yad Vashem Center in Israel every two years for training on the teaching of the Holocaust while, at the same time, the Ministry cooperates with other Holocaust teaching centers such as the Musee de la Shoah.

"An additional action of particular interest, which causes great emotion to students and teachers, is the hosting of Holocaust survivors at schools", said Ms. Michailidou, noting that in recent years, during the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Ministry displays the message "We Remember", as a tribute to the memory of the victims.

The Archbishop of Cyprus Georgios in his address welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation, pointing out that the spiritual fathers of the Jewish nation, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob "are also our spiritual fathers". He added that the psalms and other books of the Old Testament "are also our spiritual inspiration."

The Archbishop of Cyprus pointed out that Judaism and Christianity are called to cooperate for the benefit of the universe and in this context a joint declaration was released on December 6, 2011, signed by the blessed Archbishop Chrysostom II and the Chief Rabbi of Israel, which characteristically states: "above all we affirm the teaching of our respective religions regarding the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human being since everyone is created in the image of God. Consequently, we condemn all actions that desecrate this sanctity, especially violence and terrorism against the innocent".

The Archbishop of Cyprus also noted that the Memorandum of Cooperation will help to preserve the memory of the Holocaust but also to fight against all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance, principles which unfortunately, as he pointed out, "to this day are trampled upon in Cyprus by the Turkish invader, that since 1974 oppresses our basic human rights and religious freedoms."

The Greek Secretary General for Religious Affairs Mr. G. Kalantzis spoke of "a historic day", noting that it is the first time that a Memorandum with such a subject and with the specific participants has been signed. Greece, he continued, lost 86% of its Greek Jews in the Holocaust, stressing that this is one of the highest rates recorded in Europe.

Speaking about the Holocaust, Mr. Kalantzis emphasized that "we have the responsibility not only not to forget it, but with our knowledge of history to be able to teach the new generation what it is that they should avoid".

The Metropolitan of Maroneia and Komotini, on behalf of the Orthodox Church of Greece, said, speaking about the issue of anti-Semitism, that the Church of Greece has been working in this direction for years and referred to actions and programs that have been carried out in order to condemn all antisemitic actions.

KIS Secretary General Mr. Victor Eliezer stated that anti-Semitism is a historical phenomenon which is the most painful consequence of a set of lies for a group of people who believed and continue to believe in monotheism. "Since ancient times the Jews have been falsely accused, later Jews were expelled from Spain and then Jews suffered by the pogroms of the Russians. And on top of all the Holocaust. The common point: hatred based on lies and conspiracy theories" said Mr. Eliezer, noting that "even today, 80 years after the Holocaust, the Jews are being targeted, with the exception that today Jews are not alone." He also stated that the goal is to combat all forms of intolerance, anti-Semitism, and racism in schools, by schools, pointing out that the program of field visits to Auschwitz carried out by the Greek Ministry of Education is noteworthy.

The President of the Jewish Museum of Greece Mr. Mikis Modiano emphasized the importance of education regarding anti-Semitism and praised the initiative of the Ministry of Education of Greece for the student competition which allows the students, after being selected, to participate in an educational trip to Auschwitz and do various seminars on the history of the Holocaust.

*With data from The Cyprus Times, 27.2.2024