Sener Elcil

Primary Photo

Affiliated Organizations
  • 2016 Recipient, European Citizen’s Prize
  • Cypriot Educator & Unionist
  • Peace Activist

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

Peace education in Cyprus, to my understanding, is based on the idea of integrating Cyprus and bringing Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots (who are culturally similar yet have been detached due to education which has been provided to the communities on the basis of ethnicity) closer. The "divide and conquer" principle of imperialism has led to ethnic conflicts and divisions in various regions during the 20th century. We continue to see such conflicts in Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Burma and many other contexts. There is also an acceleration in conflicts based on religious beliefs and sects besides ethnic divisions.

In Cyprus, we experience a division which is dominated by ethnic differences and nationalism while religion has not been one of the primary reasons for conflict. The educational systems are mainly responsible for this division. The issue began with teachers who arrived in Cyprus from Turkey and Greece at the start of the 1900's. With nationalism, racism and chauvinism entering official teaching, divisions which later developed into physical conflicts, started in minds. During the period in which ethnic division was not the case in Cyprus, people showcased great examples of working and living together and a big part of people’s lives was based on collaboration. The most significant thing is to break down these barriers in people’s minds and eradicate discriminatory elements through peace education.

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

My hope and motivation for peace is increased by the dedication and love for peace of teachers across the divide who are willing to cross the boundaries in their own minds. This perception was reinforced through my work as a peace activist and unionist. One of the most striking moments in this work has been the establishment and continuation of the collaboration between the teacher trade unions of both the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot community under the umbrella of ETUCE, the European Trade Union Committee for Education. The co-organization of events and the interaction with both like-minded teachers and unionists, but also people who think differently than I do, have definitely been great lessons for me as a Cypriot educator who wishes to see peace education being mainstreamed despite interventions by nationalists and elites in both sides. As recognition of my work in this field, I received the European Citizen’s Prize in 2016.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

I have always believed that peace is a virtue. I am the son of a family who was victimized by the 1963 and 1974 intercommunal conflicts, and had to migrate twice. I got to experience the pain of war and the issues of immigration very closely. I learned about divisions, militarism, nationalism and racism by experiencing them. I know that Cyprus is too small to be divided, yet big enough for the two communities. My belief and determined stance which began as a student, continued throughout my teaching and unionist years with the vision of peace in Cyprus and the unification of our island. I will continue until we reach a unified, peaceful and independent Cyprus in which human rights are respected.