EMU Trainees Nominated for Nobel Prize

A Nepalese Buddhist who has received trauma training at Eastern Mennonite University was among 1,000 women nominated to win as a group the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

Stella Tamang
Stella Tamang

Stella Tamang of Nepal completed a five-day workshop on “trauma awareness and resilience” at Eastern Mennonite University on Oct. 7, the day that the Nobel Peace Prize was announced. She and 10 others among the “1000 PeaceWomen” have links to EMU.

Tamang was among the women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a Switzerland-based committee. The committee combed the world to find 1,000 women to represent the millions of women who have devoted themselves to a future free of violence, according to the committee�s website, www.1000peacewomen.org.

The committee spent almost three years seeking the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for representative women peacebuilders from more than 150 countries. That effort ended when the peace prize was awarded to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Egyptian director general, Mohamed ElBaradei.

From Oct. 14 to 23, a Zurich museum will feature the women with their photographs and stories. On Nov. 21, a 2200-page book with more than 800 photos on the women will be available for $45 through the committee�s website.

“I see this as an honor not for me – I don�t feel I deserve it for myself- but as a special recognition of the peace work being done by women around the world,” Tamang said at EMU.

Tamang is a powerful advocate for women’s rights and minority groups as a result of facing discrimination in Nepal on two fronts: she is from the indigenous Lama community and a Buddhist in the world’s only Hindu kingdom. The name of her organization, Milijuli Nepal, means “together.” Her message is that diverse groups in society can work together for their respective rights, with mutual toleration, without violence.

Eight of the 11 EMU-linked nominees have received training through one of EMU�s three flagship programs: (1) its two-year masters program in Conflict Transformation, (2) its six-week Summer Peacebuilding Institute, or (3) its five-day session called “Strategies in Trauma Awareness and Resilience,” underwritten by Church World Service.

These eight hail from six countries � two from Kenya, two from the Philippines, and one each from Nepal, Russia, Rwanda, and Somalia. The two women from Kenya are one-quarter of those on the Kenyan list. The Somalia woman is one of two from her country.

Three others on the 1000 PeaceWomen list belong to EMU�s peace network. One of the American women who won, Elise Marie Biorn-Hansen Boulding, is a Quaker who helped guide EMU�s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in its early years by serving on its first board from 1995 through 1998. Two other nominees have collaborated in Eastern Europe and the Philippines with persons holding EMU masters degree in conflict transformation.

“When EMU started its graduate peace program 10 years ago, we hardly dared dream of being a major player in the world peace arena,” said Ruth H. Zimmerman, co-director of EMU�s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).

“Now we are running into our graduates everywhere, and we are learning about the impact they have on others. It�s a huge ripple effect,” she said.

Over the last 10 years, EMU has seen nearly 3,000 people from more than 80 countries come through one of its peacebuilding programs.

The Nobel peace nominees linked to EMU tend to be in their 40s or 50s. They came to EMU for additional training after many years of working in the field of justice and peacebuilding. Along with the other nominees, “they rebuild what has been destroyed, they mediate in conflicts between enemies, and they fight poverty,” said the nominating committee. �They step in for access to land and clean water, they defend human rights and denounce every sort of child abuse. They create alternative sources of income, they care for HIV patients and take care of their children. They organize vigils and they document the atrocities of war.”

Tecla Wanjala
Tecla Wanjala

Tecla Wanjala of Kenya, for example, came to EMU after having worked in refugee camps. She earned her masters in conflict transformation from EMU in 2002 and then returned home to focus on post-conflict reconstruction as part of the Coalition for Peace in Africa.

After attending EMU�s Summer Peacebuilding Institute in 2001, Miriam “Dedet” Suacito returned to her native Philippines and offered trauma-healing sessions for war widows and for former hostages of a radical kidnap-for-ransom group. She also runs community-based anti-poverty programs and inter-religious dialogue.