“Growing up, I was–and still am–terrified of conflict. I run away from conflict, which is hilarious considering what I do,” shared Hannah Redekop (BA 2011), who has facilitated meetings between warring groups in Colombia, documented the Israeli occupation's human rights abuses against Palestinians during a year spent in Palestine, and now shares the stories of those who bear conflict's violent burden.

In 2011, Hannah graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a degree in Global Studies and Spanish. She connected with Grebel’s residence program for the first three years of her degree—both as a resident and as an associate—and she took as many Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) courses as her Laurier program allowed. “I think I almost took too many PACS courses. One day, my academic advisor at Laurier said, ‘look, if you take another one, you will need to get your degree from Waterloo,’” laughed Hannah. The PACS courses Hannah enrolled in fit well with her goal to someday work as a peacemaker.

“When I was ten, I knew I wanted to be a part of CPT. It’s always been something close to my heart,” expressed Hannah. CPT (Community Peacemaker Teams) is an international organization focused on partnering with peacemaking communities and individuals around the world. Once partnered with a group, CPT provides support by amplifying the voices of those not heard, connecting the community with the appropriate people or organizations, and accompanying partners for protection.

Hannah completed her CPT training shortly after graduating from university, and she joined her first team in Colombia where she stayed for five years. “In Colombia, we traveled with human rights observers to reduce the risk against them. There was a high possibility they would just disappear with nobody being held accountable. Bringing CPT along lessened that risk.” Hannah also helped act as a third-party mediator in discussions between government representatives and civilians affected by political negligence—something she never would have imagined herself capable of doing at the age of 25.

In 2018, Hannah switched from the Colombia team to the CPT team in Palestine where she stayed for a year before being denied re-entry after having briefly left the country. During the three months, Hannah waited in Amman, Jordan, for re-entry to Palestine, she began to study Arabic and continued to support the team across the border virtually. It was also during these months of waiting when Hannah met her now-husband, Alaeddin Rahmeh. “He’s one of the founding hip-hop artists in Amman and a natural storyteller,” said Hannah. After deciding to stay in Amman, Hannah and Alaeddin started Underground Amman, a walking tour through the city, showcasing its beautiful graffiti art.

Hannah continues to support CPT by working as the editor and social media manager for CPT’s teams in Iraqi Kurdistan, Lesvos, Palestine, Colombia, and Turtle Island. In her experience, inspiration for the peace work she is involved in comes in waves. “Sometimes I wonder how I can keep doing this, and I feel there is no hope. I find I just need to hang on to the little things,” she reflected. “It’s not like we have a manual for how to do this kind of work. In every situation, we’re looking for ways we can break the harmful cycles and find humanity. And that’s part of the communications work I do now: telling the stories.”

For Hannah, it is sometimes overwhelming to constantly view the big picture of peace advancement. Progress in major conflicts requires time, and the effects of peace building efforts often take years to become visible. Instead of holding to a broad perspective of peace work, Hannah finds hope in the day-to-day aspects of peacebuilding. “CPT is very involved in regular visits, communication, and relationship-building. We won’t only visit a community when they're in a crisis. We will go when nothing is going on. We’ll help plant their fields, celebrate birthdays, or celebrate a new birth. There is so much more than just responding to the crisis. Relationship-building is central to what we do, and is so important to maintain hope,” Hannah observed.

The PACS courses Hannah completed at Grebel have helped her to understand CPT’s role in the broader view of peacemaking and also to find inspiration as an individual peacemaker. “I really enjoyed the PACS academic education I received. I think what I learned in those courses has stayed with me. They instilled a thirst for knowledge and an understanding of how we relate to one another,” said Hannah. Grebel also showed Hannah the benefit of creating a collaborative environment. “The open door initiative speaks to the importance of relationships and living in community. I think I brought that with me to CPT, which is also very community-oriented. More recently, I was just writing a grant which hopefully will allow us to start a hip-hop cultural center in Amman. I wrote into the grant something about an open-door culture.” Wherever Hannah works, she wants to encourage the community aspect of living, working, and playing together.

“Don’t worry about your grades; just soak in as much as you can,” advised Hannah to current Grebel students. She added, “University is a fantastic four-year opportunity to develop not only your academic self but also to develop who you are as a person and discover how you fit into this world.” As a student, Hannah often got stressed about course assessments and, in hindsight, she realized that inflating the importance of each assignment detracted from her overall university experience. Similarly, peace work became unapproachable for Hannah when she placed too much emphasis on each meeting or interaction with conflicting parties. “It’s like what I just said about not sweating the grades: don’t sweat that one meeting—obviously we’re not going to solve the conflict in Colombia in one meeting, but it’s a step in the right direction,” she explained.

The key to Hannah’s ability to step into conflict, though afraid, is woven throughout her story. At 25, she was able to walk into a room full of combative parties as a mediator because she knew that peacemaking progress in Colombia did not depend on the meetings alone. Progress could be seen in the relationships she established with local communities. In Palestine, Hannah could stand amidst daily conflict because she believed that her work would someday contribute to a better future. And now, acting as the voice of many bearing the burden of conflict, Hannah can face painful stories and find hope—knowing peace is not achieved in a day. Peace is often the result of a lifetime of small actions that are taken by an individual, afraid or undaunted, who is committed to dismantling conflict and letting in the light.

Hannah's story is part of Grebel's 60 Stories for 60 Years project. Check out our 60 Stories page for more stories in this series. If you would like to nominate a Grebel alumnus to share about their experiences at Grebel, please submit a nomination form.

By Tim Saari

Hannah Redekop lived at Grebel from 2007-2010 and graduated from the Global Studies and Spanish Language and Literature programs at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2011. In 2013, she started full-time accompaniment and human rights documentation work with Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Colombia. Hannah celebrated her 10th anniversary with CPT in 2023, working as a Communications Associate. She lives in Amman, Jordan with her partner Alaeddin Rahmeh. Together they founded Underground Amman, an arts and culture initiative that seeks to support and develop the hip-hop and street art cultures in Amman through community-building events, activities, and jams, as well as a street art and graffiti walking tour.