Drumbeats filled Martin Chapel Sunday afternoon to mark the beginning of the-post commencement “Celebration of Blessings” for graduates of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Shedding their gowns and mortarboards, now they clutched flowers to bring to a communal bouquet at the front of the room.
It was Raymond Ziegler who best captured the ineffable joy of the occasion, taking his time, glorying in the moment, adding a few extra dance steps here and there down the aisle to cheers and laughter from the audience of family and friends.
And finally Jalal Maqableh, hand in hand with two little daughters also clutching flowers—the peacebuilder of the present accompanied by those for whom the work of peacebuilding is so important.
CJP conferred a total of 25 degrees — 24 in conflict transformation and one, the first ever, in restorative justice to Gregory Winship, who works with the Center for Conflict Resolution in Kansas City, Missouri.
It was fitting, then, that Howard Zehr, distinguished professor of restorative justice, gave the commencement address at the earlier ceremony where all degrees were conferred.
The cohort included graduates from 11 states and the District of Columbia, as well as nine countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Canada and Colombia.
In his traditional welcoming address, CJP Executive Director Daryl Byler noted this group of peacebuilders entered a world that “feels unusually fragile … In the volatile spaces you are entering, your being as peacebuilders is perhaps even more important than your doing.”
He passed on a top-10 list of qualities that “I would wish for you be as peacebuilders”: Be humble, be bold, be listeners, be talkers, be patient, be impatient, be connected, be yourself, be gentle, be tough.
Graduates Lenore Bajare-Dukes, Brianne Ede, Trina Trotter Nussbaum and Joanna Stauffer presented their classmates with a song of blessing, “May I Suggest?” written by Susan Werner.
Graduates Myriam Aziz, Isabel Castillo Ressler and Gregory Winship offered reflections on their time at CJP.
Aziz joked that she at first struggled with the unique pedagogy of CJP that led her to “places I didn’t even know existed.”
“I struggled at the beginning with this pedagogy,” she admitted, as her classmates laughed. “I could not see the point. I could not understand why CJP just couldn’t conform to the norms of traditional lecturing. I couldn’t comprehend the importance of theories of change. I couldn’t understand why we can’t just talk normally. Why did we have to sit in, please, circles? Why the talking pieces?”
Working together and practicing together led to deeper knowledge, she said.
Both Winship and Castillo recognized the deep ties of community among the students, faculty and staff—relationships that will endure in the years to come.
- Myriam Aziz, Beirut, Lebanon;
- Lenore Hankins Bajare-Dukes, Charlottesville, Virginia;
- Isabel Castillo Ressler, Harrisonburg, Virginia;
- Agnes Chen, Jakarta, Indonesia;
- Andrew James Daniels, Fairfax, Virginia;
- Karen Sue Dawson, Roswell, New Mexico;
- Brianne Elise Ede, Sterling, Va. (also earned graduate certificate in business administration);
- Kevin Kokoette George, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria;
- Sho O. Igawa, Miami, Florida;
- Patience Irene Njeri Kamau, Harrisonburg, Va (via Nyeri, Kenya);
- Christine Kindler, Lexington, Kentucky;
- Sarah M. King, Duluth, Minnesota;
- Samantha Lawler, Harrisonburg, Virginia;
- Devon M. Little, Seattle, Washington (graduate certificate in restorative justice);
- Jalal Hussain Maqableh, Irbid, Jordan (also earned graduate certificate in business administration);
- Michael Robert McAndrew, Wilmington, North Carolina (also earned graduate certificate in restorative justice);
- Notsen Ncube, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe;
- Trina Trotter Nussbaum, Harrisonburg, Virginia;
- Millicent Oucho Otieno, Kenya;
- Leanne Marie Sawatzky, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada;
- Darsheel Kaur Sehbi, Dayton, Ohio;
- Abby Lynn Sheppard, Washington, DC (graduate certificate in restorative justice);
- Abdul Samad Baaher Stanikzai, Kabul, Afghanistan (also earned graduate certificate in business administration);
- Joanna Lynne Stauffer, Harleysville, Pa.;
- Diana Maria Tovar Rojas, Bogota, Colombia;
- Leah Jene Visosky, Corpus Christi, Texas;
- Gregory Winship, Kansas City, Missouri (MA in restorative justice);
- Raymond F. Zeigler, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (graduate certificate in restorative justice).