“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
In partnership with a Palestinian School in East Jerusalem, TWU Alumna Elie Pritz (’03, ’12) has developed Peace Heroes Curriculum, a platform of education focused on teaching history through the lens of peace rather than war.
Since its implementation in 2013, Peace Heroes Curriculum has spread to several countries around the world and has had an incredible impact on helping children overcome trauma and strive toward making the world a better place.
Born in a World of Conflict
Pritz was born and raised in Jerusalem to Christian parents who were neither Jewish nor Palestinian. Her American father and Swiss mother met and married in Israel in the 70s and remained there to raise their three daughters.
Immersed in both Israel and Palestinian communities, Pritz developed a unique perspective on the situation in the Middle East.
“From a very young age, I learned to be a bridge between disparate people/cultures/narratives, and understood the value of relationships—over and above political, national, or ethnic allegiances. This unusual mixing of worlds was the foundation for my passion for reconciliation.”
Trinity Western and Beyond
Pritz decided to leave Israel to study in Canada at Trinity Western University for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. There, she earned her BA in English and her MA in Interdisciplinary Humanities, with a focus on English and Creative Writing.
In addition to her time at Trinity Western, she also studied at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, where she completed her Masters in Reconciliation Studies.
“Once I returned to Israel, my background and studies seemed to come together beautifully when I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a Palestinian school in Jerusalem that had decided to purposefully teach its students peace in an environment marked by violence,” says Pritz.
It was here that Peace Heroes Curriculum was born.
“In Palestine and in Israel, the heroic warrior is a very strong concept/image within the society. But for both communities, it is completely tied into militaristic achievements,” says Pritz.
Because of this, Pritz strived to create a curriculum that would reframe the student’s perspective on what it means to be a hero. She researched individuals who prioritized peace as a way of living from various religions and cultures around the world, hoping to provide children from war-torn countries some new, inspirational models.
“Students learn about hardships, injustices, and conflicts all over the world, as well as the people who have stood up to bring peace and wholeness to these situations,” says Pritz. “They are then encouraged to learn about the challenges facing their own communities and to celebrate their own local peace heroes. This dual approach empowers students to become agents of profound and positive change in their own specific context as well as in the world at large.”
After three years in the Palestinian school where she worked, Pritz decided to take Peace Heroes to other countries.
“In 2016, I launched an extensive pilot program that included more schools in Israel and Palestine as well as schools in Kenya, South Africa, Burundi, and two refugee camps in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan,” says Pritz.
In this time, Pritz has begun to understand the powerful potential for healing in the lives of traumatized children (some of who were refugees, captives of ISIS, rescued sex-slaves, and child-soldiers).
“By intentionally creating a program that addresses trauma, we can help these children change the narrative of their lives—from victims to heroes,” says Pritz.
Although the road ahead is long and full of uncertainty, Pritz is determined to continue to do her part in spreading the message of Peace Heroes Curriculum. She hopes to make it as accessible and inclusive as possible in order to reach more children and to help restore some of the brokenness in the world around them.
Interested in learning more about Peace Heroes Curriculum? Click here.
I often feel that I need to define what I mean by peace when I talk about this project, as there is a tendency to over-simplify the word and associate it only with politics, or the absence of violence, or a sense of calm and ease. These definitions are misleading, as they do not tap into the very heart of peace, which, I believe, is God Himself.
In Hebrew, the meaning of the word “peace” is “wholeness,” or “completeness.” The word itself signifies that peacemaking and healing are inextricably linked. Peace must always seek to restore what has been broken, to heal both external and internal wounds, in addition to everything else we expect peace to do. Anything less is not true, or full, peace. A peace hero, then, is anyone at all who is working to mend what is broken in our world. As a Christian, I believe that when we do this, we are participating in God’s redemptive work. Being a peacemaker is, in a very real sense, a way of encountering God.
But to be peacemakers, we have to have the courage to face all the brokenness and pain around and inside us. Brokenness is a universal experience. It matters little which country you are from, what your nationality is, your gender, your skin color, your socio-economic status, your political leanings—no one is immune to pain. What differentiates us in the end isn’t our brokenness, but rather what we choose to do with it.
The people we applaud and admire are those who, through their pain, are moved to compassion—propelled to action on behalf of everyone’s pain, not just their own. It is looking beyond themselves and seeing the pain of others that makes these people’s stories so beautiful. I have to remind myself of this often: that beauty comes when we look beyond ourselves and courageously lean into the pain of the world around us—in the same way Christ did.
The God I believe in is not afraid of pain—He steps into it and experiences it together with us, taking it upon Himself and sharing it with us in a way that enables us to bear it. He is a God who loves all that is broken and whose heart longs to remake the world—to remake us into the beautiful children of God He knows us to be. He invites us to join Him in this journey—to face the brokenness in and around us with a courage that stems from knowing, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are loved—and that Love never fails.
In the end, all true peace stems from God. What a privilege then, when we are invited to walk alongside Him as He works to heal the world He loves.
—Elie Pritz (’03, ’12)