Loizos Loukaidis

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What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?

My work in Peace Education is trying to address issues of anti-racism, xenophobia, and hatred while bringing students and teachers in contact across the existing divide on the island of Cyprus. Through my role as the Coordinator of the ‘Imagine’ project, implemented by the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research under the auspices of the Bi-communal Technical Committee on Education, I am trying to suggest a paradigm where children, young people and educators become agents of change and try removing one-by-one the bricks of the wall that is separating our country.

The interconnectedness between both the challenges humanity is facing as well as the successes we share as peace educators give me hope that our struggle for sustainable peace and social justice will derive through constructing a sense of common humanity. This goes hand in hand with my conviction that our peace education interventions should be based on the understanding that education’s role is to change the world rather than replicate it. One of the greatest moments in my work is when teachers and students collectively reach this understanding.

What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?

The most striking moment in my career as a Peace Educator was when the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus granted permission for the implementation of the ‘Imagine’ project which I authored but would have never been possible if it wasn’t for the collective efforts of individuals and organizations, and synergies between different stakeholders. Through this process, I realized that only by engaging the ‘non-converted’ and applying a step-by-step approach in our work we can create change. Engaging people who think differently about peace and are not the usual suspects was of course challenging, but it proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences since it reinforced my understanding that we cannot walk the path of peace alone. To the date of the publication, ‘Imagine’ has brought together almost 5000 from all communities in Cyprus accompanied by 500 teachers while another 350 teachers and head teachers received training in Peace Education.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

My exposure to Anti-racism Education and Education for Sustainable Development during my university years has definitely been the turning point for me when I realized that, as a teacher, I have great potential as well as the responsibility to inspire social change. This was followed by my Masters in Peace Education at the UN mandated University for Peace, my subsequent return to Cyprus to work as a teacher and the realization that the system I had been educated in taught me a specific narrative that excludes ‘others’. My involvement in bi-communal civil society projects aiming at reconciliation through the development of critical thinking and multi-perspectivity, and my daily interactions with people that were supposed to be my enemies, reinforced my endorsement of what Elise Boulding once said; “There can be no strangers; only people with whom a relationship needs to be established.”