According to Greek mythology, Cyprus is the birthplace of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. In reality Cyprus, an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean, has historically been anything but a place of love, as it has been fought over for thousands of years. Cyprus has been conquered and ruled by the Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Roman, and British empires.
Today Cyprus is a popular tourist destination—particularly for northern Europeans seeking its sandy beaches and warm, dry weather. The island joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, and as of January 1, 2008, the euro is its national currency. Cyprus has a strong economy, above average for the EU. Beyond tourism, Cyprus’ economy depends on agricultural products such as grapes, citrus, vegetables, and meat products.
After generations of foreign rule, Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. Three years later tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority came to a head and a brief civil war broke out. United Nations peacekeepers arrived in 1964 and tried to keep periodic outbreaks of violence to a minimum. A demilitarized zone—known as the green line—was created dividing the north, consisting primarily of Turkish Cypriots, from the south, where most Greek Cypriots live.
Adventists in Cyprus
The first Adventists, Moses Boursalian and his family, came to Cyprus in 1912 as tentmaker-style missionaries. Moses sold homemade combs, traveling by donkey from village to village telling people about his beliefs along the way. Moses’ son, John, became the first Adventist literature evangelist on the island several years later. By 1930 a small group of 30 people worshipped together in Nicosia each Sabbath.
Republic of Cyprus
Greek, Turkish, and English
Greek Orthodox, 78%; Muslim, 18%; Other, 4%
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
*General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 145th Annual Statistical Report
For many years no ordained ministers lived on the island. Church leaders visited only occasionally to conduct baptism and Communion services. In 1932 Canadian missionaries R. S. Greaves and his wife, who had spent many years working in Greece and Turkey, retired in Cyprus and worked as pioneer missionaries.
In 1964 J. Sherwood Jones was appointed president of the Adventist Church in Cyprus, after years of the church being administered from Beirut, Lebanon. Soon afterward Cypriot and grandson of Moses Boursalian, Moses Elmadjian, was appointed secretary-treasurer of the mission.
The Adventist Church still struggles to gain a foothold in Cyprus. Most Cypriots go to church to celebrate Christmas and Easter, and to attend baptisms and funerals. The majority of Adventists in Cyprus are foreigners, whose jobs have brought them to the island.
Cyprus is one of many countries that make up the Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This division is hosting “Follow the Bible” this month. “Follow the Bible” is an initiative sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church to stimulate a deeper interest in reading the Bible. The journey will conclude at the General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., in June 2010.