Skip to Content

“Respecting others and their views is essential in theatre,” argues theatre director Jadranka Andjelic (left). In the same way, peacebuilding is not possible without skills of collaboration, she thinks. Photo: Djordje Tomic.

Learning & teaching

Sabrina Severo da Silva: ”There is no universal recipe for peace”

Authors: Kaisu Sofia John Published:

“Respecting others and their views is essential in theatre,” argues theatre director Jadranka Andjelic (left). In the same way, peacebuilding is not possible without skills of collaboration, she thinks. Photo: Djordje Tomic.

What does peacebuilding demand from an educator? Experts on peace education from Serbia, Finland and Portugal share their insights.

Jadranka Andjelic, Serbia:

”I’m a theatre director and peace educator at the same time. I have learned that peace is a complex issue, far from being black and white, with numerous elements and layers. Theatre operates on intellectual, emotional, and physical levels. Because theatre is so multifaceted, I strongly believe that it is an excellent tool for peace education.

“Peace education means giving time and space for people to see different kind of point of views, even if it feels uncomfortable,” says Jadranka Andjelic. Photo: Tanja Drobnjak.

During the years I have learned that peace education means giving time and space for people to see different kind of point of views, even if it feels uncomfortable. This can be achieved through theatrical practices: one person can portray certain elements, another can depict different aspects, and a third person can present an alternative perspective. In the realm of theatre, we have the freedom to present whatever we desire!

Collaboration is essential in theatre: respecting others and their views. We can’t do theatre without developing this capacity. Building peace is also not possible without developing the skill of collaboration.

As educators promoting peace, it is crucial that we actively practice the values we advocate. We must also be prepared to undergo transformation, if needed. What is peaceful behaviour to others? People, including educators, may discuss democracy but exhibit undemocratic behaviour towards others.

Peace education doesn’t only occur among individuals. It is crucial to remember that peace education also takes place between humans and nature. It was profoundly moving when I realised how theatre can be a powerful tool for peacebuilding between humans and nature. We organised theatre performances in the park addressing the relationship between nature and humans. After the performance, we discussed and invited people closer to the park’s trees. Typically, people spontaneously began hugging the trees without us instructing them to do so.

Peace education also takes place between humans and nature.

In a solo performance called Terra, I was planting plants. The performance explored themes related to migration. During the performance, video footage of everyday life of refugees was shown, including violence and deportations at the border. While people care for their plants with love, the portrayal highlights the lack of similar compassion towards human beings. After the performance, people were moved and eager to engage in discussions about the theme. In such dialogue sessions, peace education takes place.”

Jadranka Andjelic

  • Theatre director and founder of DAH Theatre in Belgrade, Serbia
  • DAH Theatre, founded in 1991, uses workshops, performances and discussions to create engaging art and initiate positive social change.

Sirkku Kivistö, Finland:

”Since the 80s, I have been inspired by questions of war and peace. In addition to my work as a psychologist in Finland, since 1984 I have been working in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as a peacebuilder and educator through an organisation called Finnish Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

“I have learned that maintaining hope is a basic ingredient in building peace,” says Sirkku Kivistö, who has 40 years’ experience in peace education. Photo: FiPSR

When I visited a refugee camp in Lebanon after Lebanese Civil War around 1990, I realised that the peace doesn’t come easily –reconstruction of a society requires a huge amount of work. There were so much traumatised people in the camps: peace did not enter their minds. Back then, the concept of stress wasn’t even understood well there. We supported the wellbeing of social workers and educated them. For example, we taught them the model of working as a multiprofessional team. Teams consist of social workers and professionals of family counselling centres. This work has continued to this day.

If I am honest, I feel a little bit hopeless. Peace is not a very fashionable word when our societies around the world are militarised and polarised. However, during my career I have learned that maintaining hope is a basic ingredient in building peace. So, I won’t give up hope.

An empathetic attitude creates the path of hope. A peace educator cannot deny the reality experienced by another. What a peacebuilder can do is to create strong relationships of trust among different kinds of people, on both sides of a conflict. And after that – listen.
Engaging in dialogue and truly knowing others on both sides of the conflict leads us down the path of hope. When I visited Israel and Palestine, I understood that Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks say almost nothing about either group of people.

A peace educator cannot deny the reality experienced by another.

Peace education is a persistent, long-term effort, requiring a great deal of patience from a peace educator. Our work is mostly invisible. I hope that the proactive work of peace organisations is brought more into the spotlight in the media. I encourage peace educators to collaborate with various peace organisations. Learning from individuals with diverse expertise is valuable.

Here’s a tip for peace educators: Study a conflict and its history, but also delve into the prerequisites and practices of peace work.”

Sirkku Kivistö

  • Psychologist and founding member of Finnish Psychologists for Social Responsibility (FiPSR)
  • Has worked as a psychologist, peacebuilder and educator for 40 years in refugee camps in Lebanon and as an advisor in development projects in Turkey, Namibia, Sri Lanka and Palestine.
  • FiPSR, founded in 1982, promotes the right to psychological and social wellbeing of everyone.

Sabrina Severo da Silva, Portugal:

“I have worked as a facilitator in peacebuilding in Portugal since 1999. First, we need to understand that peace is not something abstract; it is visible. The promotion of peace occurs at an individual level in the realms of mindset and emotions. However, it is also a collective construction of interpersonal relationships, practices and methodologies.

Sabrina Severo da Silva thinks that each of us can be an agent of peace. “It’s an ongoing process that occurs daily on both an individual and collective level.” Photo: Sabrina Severo da Silva.

Peace education is an approach that aims to develop knowledge, skills, attitudes and values contributing to an education that seeks to promote understanding, cooperation, nonviolent conflict resolution and respect for human rights. Its objectives include conflict prevention, the promotion of social justice, the appreciation of diversity and the construction of more peaceful and inclusive societies. Therefore, it is also about public policies, ensuring rights, recognising territories and indigenous people.

But how do we become aware that peace encompasses all these dimensions? That is a real challenge for a peace educator.

During my career, the most inspiring moments are those in which we realise that peace is created of all these dimensions. For instance, when I observe a group of educators actively pursuing more collaborative practices with a focus on attentive listening. Similarly, when I see a community actively seeking restorative approaches to resolve its conflicts. These moments inspire me a lot.

Peace promotion is a collective construction of interpersonal relationships, practices and methodologies.

While the concept of peace may seem massive and almost unattainable, it manifests in everyday micro-actions. There is no universal recipe for peace. Instead, it’s an ongoing process that occurs daily on both an individual and collective level.

I’m currently doing my PhD in Education, specialising in collaborative methodologies and cooperative pedagogy. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian philosopher and educator, told us that we need to “hope” as a verb, as an action. Peace education is about building collectively and not giving up. Each of us can be an agent of peace.

As a tip, I encourage all educators to create safe spaces for open and respectful dialogue among people from different backgrounds and perspectives. As educators we can highlight empathy, promote listening, and understand experiences from many points of view.”

Sabrina Severo da Silva

  • Peace educator since 1999, currently preparing her PhD in Education specialising in collaborative methodologies and cooperative pedagogy.
  • Works as a facilitator in peacebuilding, conflict mediation and transformation and nonviolent communication. Offers courses, lectures and support for collective projects.
  • Member of Diasporas Association, an organisation focusing on migration and education for peace.
Share the article

Authors

Kaisu Sofia John (MA) is the editor of ELM magazine. Contact: kaisu.kinnunen(at)kvs.fi; +358 400 641 380 Show all articles by Kaisu Sofia John
Back to top