Athens, May 12, 2000 (dpa) - The Greek Orthodox church on the Mediterranean
island of Cyprus has called for a boycott of the Miss Universe pageant
Saturday, denouncing such contests as un-Christian and an embarrassment to
On Friday, Cypriot newspapers described the dispute which has broken
out between the Cypriot church and pageant organizers as a "holy war".
Church leaders will organize an all-night vigil on Friday near the
pageant's venue, an indoor sports arena in Nicosia, to coincide with the
final preparations for the televised show.
"We will pray together for the souls of the people. Such contests
humiliate women and are more characteristic of a slave bazaar," said Cypriot
Orthodox Church spokesman, Nicos Nicolaides.
Local women's rights groups have also denounced the pageant, and have
called on people to demonstrate outside the venue.
"It is a meat market and we will be outside tonight to try to stop
this miserable organization," said a woman from the women's rights group
However, contestants argue that the pageant reward both intelligence
and beauty. Both Miss Australia and Miss Lebanon are lawyers and Miss
Yugoslavia has majored in architect at college.
Even though beauty pageants have been staged in Cyprus in the past,
the church has been more vocal this time around because the government is
sponsoring the event, which has been linked to the pagan worship of
Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.
According to mythology, Aphrodite was born from sea foam and washed up
on the beach of the western port town of Pathos, Cyprus some 3,000 years
ago. The Greek goddess of love is supposed to have been judged the winner in
the first Miss Universe contest.
Seventy-nine contestants will be judged in evening dress, swimsuits
and national costume during the pageant, which will be televised around the
Aside from the dispute raging between the church and organizers,
Cypriot press reports say that the contestants themselves have also been
caught up in a "political dispute".
Miss Turkey will not participate in the pageant after she tried to
enter the Republic of Cyprus from the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the
north and was turned away. The entity is only recognized by Turkey.
In addition, Miss Lebanon is not on speaking terms with Miss Israel
because of the recent air and artillery strikes against her country. Miss
Taiwan meanwhile has had to change her name to Miss Chinese Taiwan.