Recently, I was a part of an international missions outreach to Cyprus. For a Mediterranean island, it boasts frequent sunshine, beautiful beaches and world-famous hospitality. Historically, Cyprus was the first nation whose leader converted to faith in Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Nearly 2,000 years later, it was a privilege to walk in the footsteps of Paul and Barnabas. Similar to Paul’s experiences, our team encountered many areas of darkness and despair and in the manner of the Spirit of Christ, we were able to shine his light and hope each place we went.
Our team jumped right in to local pro-life activism upon our arrival on the island. We worked in the capital city of Nicosia, which is currently divided by a wall and UN Buffer Zone due to the past Turkish invasion and current occupation of the north. The country’s sole pregnancy care centre is located in the midst of this geo-political division and, from its inception, has served as a beacon of God’s light and love and a place of true Christian unity and service.
Because abortion is legal in Cyprus, and covered in a cloak of shame and secrecy, both within and outside the church, there has been little action taken educationally and politically to address the issue, or even acknowledge it. Reliable stats on abortion are not available, as the majority of abortions take place in private facilities, bypassing restrictions of the law and any state record keeping.
Before the PCC opened seven years ago, there was no support for women in crisis pregnancies in the entire country. Many women have found refuge, safety and help for themselves, their families and their unborn babies during crisis pregnancies. Recently, women have been emerging to receive healing after abortions.
Another life-threatening fact that was uncovered was the state-run eugenics program that has even implored the major religious institutions to participate at the level of pre-martial screening. To eliminate the blood disease thalassamia B, Cyprus implemented a genetic screening program in the 1980s, with the goal of eradicating the gene responsible for the disease. Children who would be potential carriers of the gene are “avoided” through premarital genetic screening, genetic counselling and ultimately abortion.
Before the program began, 70 babies were born with thalassemia each year, but since the “screening” (killing) program began, there are now only about two thalassemia babies born each year. You can do the math. When I inquired about the program, the PCC volunteers expressed that the public has no knowledge of what is actually taking place, nor do most of the political officials. It is alarming that Cyprus seems to exist in a political and educational vacuum regarding the pro-life message.
We encountered another great moral compromise in the realm of family, specifically related to the “booming” sex trafficking and prostitution industry in Cyprus. Our team joined up with Touch of Light Ministry, which goes into the red light district weekly to bring God’s love in relationship and practical help to victims of human trafficking. I met many Eastern European, Russian and Filipino women “working” in the bars and cabarets. Feeling the hardness of their hearts as we tried to speak with some of the women was an unpleasant reality of their wounded, broken souls. Seeing the faces of husbands, fathers and young men seeking sex for money, while their wives and children were at home, was loathsome and disconcerting.
It is, however, largely the outgrowth of a culture that has closed its eyes to husbands and fathers that regularly use prostitutes and teach their male sons that it is normal sexual behaviour. Due to growing international awareness and bad press on Cyprus’s role in the sex trade, the government has taken small steps toward addressing and curbing the issue. It is a beginning.
I see many parallels between Cyprus and Canada, with regard to renowned hospitality and being refuges for foreign immigrants. Unfortunately, both nations have allowed the same evils of oppression, death, immorality and perversion to live in their lands. Cyprus has been home to these issues for two millennia longer than Canada has been a nation.
However embedded and deep these roots might run, I am convinced that, as followers of Jesus Christ, as pro-lifers and as Canadians, we have a responsibility to stand with our family of faith in Cyprus and to speak out, advocate and do justice for the voiceless, for the oppressed. By unwavering faith, persevering prayer and generous resources, we can help see the moral poverty of abortion, eugenics and human trafficking exposed and transformed by the power and grace of God into righteousness for the glory of God in Cyprus and in Canada.
Allison Kach is director of missions (WOLRC in Guelph, Ont.), a Bible teacher and former executive director of Guelph and Area Right to Life.