What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?
I live in the north of Cyprus, a context known for its prolonged and intractable conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. My area of expertise is the use of intergroup contact as a peace education tool to reduce prejudice between the two communities. Despite the partial opening of checkpoints, psychological barriers remain intact, therefore bringing groups together and training them from a peace education perspective is vital for the future generations of our island. As part of my work I have had a number of positive and negative experiences - I know changing the hearts of people will take time, so I focus on the good things. For instance, after a training session with Greek and Turkish Cypriot youth, when they are about to part (perhaps never to see each other again) they often embrace, hug and frantically exchange telephone numbers or instagram accounts! I watch them with tears in my eyes and hope in my soul- that's what gets me through the bad times!
What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?
When a fellow peace educator tackled a student's prejudice with calm energy, empathy and love. The student spoke in Greek, so I could not understand, but his body language told me how agitated and upset he was. I watched her talk to him (again, in a language I could not understand) in a way that soothed, engaged and essentially transformed him. It was a very powerful moment.
How and why did you start working in peace education?
I started working in this field because I want peace to prevail, not just in Cyprus but in the whole world. If the work we do makes a small contribution to that, if we are able to transform the beliefs of even a minority of youngsters in Cyprus, then it is a worthy cause. Change will inevitably come!