Making a Big Difference in Just Three Years

In August 2001, Gopar Tapkida, his wife Monica, and three daughters (then ages 9, 5, and 3 months) headed home to Jos, Nigeria, where Tapkida planned to explore ways to apply his newly earned masters degree in conflict transformation.

Instead they found themselves cowering with 10 other friends and relatives in two small rooms, with no food and little water, as bloody inter-religious riots swirled outside their hiding place.

When the rampage subsided, 3,000 in his city were dead. Relatives and friends had lost their property. Some had lost their lives. “Every knowledge I had about peace disappeared completely,” recalls Tapkida. “You don’t know where to begin.”

Tapkida’s journey from the depths of numb shock to breaking the cycle of violence is recounted in an earlier issue of Peacebuilder.

As a sequel, here is a report from a recent observer of Tapkida’s work: “While at EMU in 2003, I did my practicum under the Mennonite Central Committee in Jos, Nigeria, where Gopar Tapkida was heading the peace program,” writes Priscilla A. Adoyo, a 2003 masters in conflict transformation graduate. “It seemed to me that Gopar was faced with a daunting task, and I really wondered how long it would take before we saw the fruit of his labor.

“Well, I had the privilege of going back there for my doctoral research last summer [2006], and I was truly amazed at how effective and widespread the trainings in peacebuilding had been. There was a remarkable difference in just three years. There is plenty of hope for peacebuilders.”

Tapkida, MA ’01, and his wife Monica are West Africa regional peace coordinators for Mennonite Central Committee, based in their home country of Nigeria.

Adoyo, a Nigerian who is a PhD candidate at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., adds: “I am eager now to get my studies over and done with, so I can go out there where the real learning takes place!”

Tapkida will be teaching the course “Identity and Transformation” with professor Barry Hart at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute 2008.

Article originally published in Peacebuilder magazine, Winter 2008.