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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 June 2015
NEWS 10 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 JUNE 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Academic backs people power on gay marriage Professor Vrasidas Karalis calls for Greek Australians to embrace change NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU With Labor's bill to back same-sex marriage unlikely to be debated by federal parliament until August, Professor Vrasidas Karalis told Neos Kosmos this week that "society itself should take responsibility for matters that pertain to private life and social ethics". “Because of prejudices imposed by anachronistic customs, many talented and creative people are lost to the [Greek] community ... changing their name and constructing a new identity for themselves.” "We cannot afford leaving such important issues to institutions which want control and domination," he said. "Individuals are responsible for their life - not social ideol- ogies or religious beliefs - and when two adults want to do something in mutual consent, the state should have nothing to do with it." Opinion polls suggest support for marriage equality is even higher in Australia than in Ireland, which overwhelmingly supported the introduction of gay marriage in a referendum two weeks ago. Professor Karalis say his fear is that in Australia the issue is fast becoming a political football. "Politicians sacrifice innovation to post-election alliances and give-and-take deals behind the scenes. "I think that a general referendum should be the only legitimate strategy, so that all political parties, and all conservatives who react to it, have no excuse to ignore the significance of the issue." The gay marriage debate has divided the Greek Australian community, with advocates of same-sex marriage critical of some of the community's more socially conservative elements. "Despite what is claimed by social conservatives, the Greek Australian community, Young Sydneysiders take part in a marriage equality rally held last weekend. and especially the young, are open to the new challenges and keen to accept change," says Karalis. "In Greece, members of the gay community are still stigmatised, but they are fighting back, gaining visibility and power within the legal frameworks provided by the EU. A same-sex union doesn't have to be a religious ceremony: it can be a civil union like the usual wedding ceremony. "In Australia, the problem is because of existing prejudices imposed by anachronistic customs, many talented and creative people are lost to the [Greek] community and disappear within the wider Australian society, changing their name and constructing a new identity for themselves. "It is an immense haemorrhage of intellectual capital. There is a place for everyone in Hellenism. It is time to nurture difference and acceptance and promote the values of an open and tolerant community, without fears or disrespect for difference.” Professor Karalis says that young Greek Australians "have grown up within the context of a multicultural and multi-religious society and have no problems in accepting different behaviours and practices". "Many conservatives from the previous generation project their own fears and phobias on them and it's time to PHOTO: AAP/PAUL MILLER. move on. The recognition of same-sex union shows that society evolves and changes its principles, on the basis of including groups and individuals that were excluded from visibility and acceptance." The professor added that same-sex marriage would "create the legal and ethical framework to enhance personal responsibility and will redefine inter-personal relations for decades to come". Cyprus: US ambassador causes furore Cyprus issue ‘not essentially a problem of invasion and occupation’ NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU The outgoing US ambassador to Cyprus, Mr John Koenig, has caused a commotion in Cyprus and with the Cypriot diaspora after recent statements he made on the Turkish occupation of the island's north. During a discussion at the University of Cyprus, he said that he did not regard “the Cyprus issue as essentially a problem of invasion and occupation. If you don't like it, I can't help it. I do not regard that as the core of the Cyprus problem". The ambassador's incendiary remarks were made at a lecture he gave entitled ‘Cyprus at a Crossroads: A diplomat reflects on three decades of engagement with the Eastern Mediterranean’. Sotiris Tsouris, president of the Cyprus Community Club of NSW, said he was unsurprised by Mr Koenig's statements, which, in his opinion, reflect the United State's passive stance on Cyprus for more than 40 years. "It takes a great deal of nerve from someone who has been an ambassador in the eastern Mediterranean area to go and suggest there is no such issue," he said. "I personally feel sorry for Cypriot MPs who pin their hopes for a solution on the US." Dr Michalis Michael, senior research fellow at La Trobe University, told Neos Kosmos that media tend to give more credence to "runaway statements" from former US diplomats than they deserve. "Was it wise? Probably not. Does it constitute US policy? I sincerely doubt it. Does it matter? I hope not," said Dr Michael, before adding that such comments run the risk of derailing public discussion away from “current efforts to bring about a peaceful and fair solution to Cyprus' longstanding division". Outgoing US Ambassador in Cyprus John Koenig. PHOTO: CYPRUS MAIL.
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