New peace programming connects university and elementary students
Tareq Abuhalima, a graduate assistant at Bluffton University’s The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center, is excited about the new peace programming the center is offering for children. During the spring 2023 semester, Abuhalima along with 10 Bluffton University students developed “Teaching Peace to Children.” The sessions focus on issues such as conflict resolution and cultural understanding.
“It’s been a successful start to the program, and we are planning to duplicate it in the fall,” said Abuhalima, who is earning his Master of Arts in Organizational Management at Bluffton. “It’s important to familiarize children with these topics. It’s a critical period of time on which they will build the rest of their lives.”
Taught mainly by education majors, the programs also provide undergraduate students additional experience in lesson planning and classroom management.
Growing up in Gaza City, Abuhalima is achieving a dream to continue his studies in the United States. He originally learned about Bluffton University after volunteering to videoconference with students taught by Paul Neufeld Weaver, director of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center. After further getting to know each other, Neufeld Weaver encouraged Abuhalima to apply for the Lion and Lamb position.
“I was merely volunteering and setting an example for others to do good work,” explained Abuhalima of the opportunity. “I never thought this connection would result in me coming here and getting my master’s degree.”
An English major for his undergraduate studies, Abuhalima previously taught at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and most recently was an executive manager for Youth Vision Society. At the NGO, he gained extensive experience in project management and peace activism. He’s most proud of an ongoing program called Youth Influencers for a Change.
“The project works to raise awareness to youth of their basic fundamental rights. We worked with social media influencers,” explained Abuhalima. “We taught them about these rights, and they shared and talked about these rights on their platforms to reach a broader community.”
Abuhalima came to Bluffton in January 2023 and will finish his master’s degree in two years. During his time in the United States, he hopes to further educate people about the reality of living in the Gaza Strip as a Palestinian.
“In the Gaza Strip, there are always clashes. There is always something. We wake up to the news. We go to sleep to the news,” said Abuhalima. “I want to amplify the voice of Palestinians not only in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank, Jerusalem and refugee camps in Lebanon.”
He’s already shared his story with a few groups on campus, and later this summer, he will present at the Mennonite Church USA Convention in Kansas City.
peace and justice, cultural understanding and nonviolent responses to conflict with an emphasis on these themes for children.