Graduates of Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding gather for a group photo on Sunday, May 6, after commencement ceremonies. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

CJP graduates from eight states and 12 countries charged to ‘maximize healing’

At an afternoon reception following Sunday’s Commencement ceremony at Eastern Mennonite University, Center for Justice and Peacebuilding Executive Director Daryl Byler reminded the 29 graduates that they were now members of a huge and hope-filled network: 638 alumni from 78 countries currently working in 65 countries.

He also noted the personal transformations that many graduates experienced while at CJP, and shared hopes that that dynamic would continue in their future work. [Read more about practicum experiences here.]

In his 30 years of peacebuilding, he said, “various peacebuilding worlds I have inhabited have changed me more than I have changed systems that cause harm. Peacebuilding is our journey towards minimizing the harm we cause and maximizing the healing we can contribute.”

CJP conferred a total of 29 degrees. Graduates came from nine states and the District of Columbia, as well as 12 countries: Spain, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, Sudan, South Africa, New Zealand, Colombia, Taiwan, Tanzania, Brazil, Iran and Kenya.

Sylvia Menendez Alcalde hugs Professor Johonna Turner during the CJP graduation reception Sunday afternoon.

Fourteen degrees were conferred in conflict transformation and three in restorative justice. Additionally, three students earned graduate certificates in conflict transformation, and one in restorative justice.

Eight members of the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program, all from Kenya, earned graduate certificates in peacebuilding leadership. [Read more about this cohort here.]

These graduates are particularly significant, as Commencement speaker Leymah Gbowee MA ‘07 was instrumental in the founding of the program in 2011. This cohort’s successful completion brings the total number of WPLP graduates from Africa and the South Pacific to 42 women.

CJP grad awarded university’s first honorary doctorate

Earlier in the day, Gbowee became the recipient of the university’s first honorary Doctor of Justice degree “for her extraordinary achievements in peacebuilding or social justice work,” according to Provost Fred Kniss, who ceremonially made the recommendation to President Susan Schultz Huxman.

Read Leymah Gbowee’s 2018 Commencement address.

President Susan Schultz Huxman congratulates Leymah Gbowee MA ’07 after the presentation of the honorary Doctor of Justice degree.

“In one hundred years of EMU’s existence, who would have told anyone that a girl from West Africa, a tiny village, a tiny country, who came here to validate and to justify her inclusion in peacebuilding work at the community level would come back several years later as the first honorary degree awardee?” Gbowee said, after giving thanks for the award.

Gbowee’s address, titled “Urgently Needed! Defenders of Peace and Justice,” offered statistics about the rising numbers of global conflicts, armed and insurgent groups, drug cartels, terror attacks and deaths. “Beyond these numbers, when we look around our world, especially in places people never think about, you have issues of housing crisis, you have rape and exploitation of women in different parts of the world, the threat to the environment and many other vices.”

The “burning” question, she said, is “Who is going to fix our world? Who is going to give hope or the hopeless? Who is going solve the problems of the world?”

“Step out,” she urged. “Whatever your calling may be, defend peace and justice with your actions, your interactions and your attitude. Most especially, when issues are not longer trending and the hashtags are no longer hashing, and the lights and the cameras are off, defend peace, defend justice. You can never go wrong.”

Mturi, Lee speak for graduates

Kajungu Mturi talks about the impact of his time at CJP.

Kajungu Mturi, of Tanzania, and Jennifer Chi Lee, of South Africa, were selected to address their classmates, faculty and friends at the afternoon reception.

Mturi assured the faculty, who had invested so much in them, that dividends would be repaid. “We promise we will use every single opportunity we have to stand for justice, invisible or visible. We will do our best,” he said. “I know my friends, and my friends will do what they can when they see injustice. This is a heavy burden, but we will carry it.”

Lee passed around a spindle of red yarn, replicating a process that had been shared in a reflective circle among graduates and CJP community a few days before.

There is a thread that connects the dots of our lives,” she explained. “This thread may be difficult to see, and it’s not always easy to explain how we came to this little town in the Shenandoah Valley studying something called conflict transformation and passing things around in circles.”

Jennifer Chi Lee was the second of two graduate speakers.

She urged her classmates to find the threads, “sleep with the bread that makes us feel safe,” and embrace the mystery, the risk, and the unknown of the promise of peace.

A tradition of the reception is for professors to give short speeches about each graduate. In his welcoming introduction to this part of the reception, Professor Carl Stauffer highlighted how close the community becomes.

“We danced together, sung together, sat on the floor together, had long hard conversations in offices, sat in circle and sat and ate together,  walked through the anxiety of com exams, and all of this is how we become a learning community. It’s not about the degree, it’s about you and the gift we see you as in the world.”


Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation

  • Silvia Menendez Alcalde, Madrid, Spain
  • Nourah Abdullah M. Alhasawi, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Brenna Case, North Canton, Ohio
  • Matthew Ryan Fehse, Redding, Calif.
  • Liana Rose Hershey, Mount Laurel, N.J.
  • Youngji Jang, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea
  • Andudu Adam Elnail Kuku, Kadugli, Sudan
  • Jennifer Chi Lee, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Wayne Francis Marriott, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Ian Steele Pulz, Cranbury, N.J.
  • Brian McLauchlin, SVD, Washington D.C.
  • Matthew Michael Tibbles, Harrisonburg, Va.
  • Andrea Carolina Moya Urueña, Ibague, Colombia
  • Chihchun Yuan, Taipei, Taiwan

Master of Arts in Restorative Justice

  • Deborah M. Bayless, Raytown, Mo.
  • Mturi Kajungu Samson, Mugumu, Tanzania
  • Boris Alejandro Ozuna Urueta, Sincelejo, Colombia

Graduate Certificate in Conflict Transformation

  • Jesse Noël Morales, Greensboro, N.C.
  • Claudia Costa Moreira, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Maryam Shahmoradi, Tehran, Iran

Graduate Certificate in Peacebuilding Leadership

  • Maryam Sheikh Abdikadir, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Judith Nasimiyu Mandillah, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Rachel C. Mutai, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Violet W. Muthiga, Mombasa, Kenya
  • Sarah Chelimo Naibei, Kitale, Kenya
  • Catherine Gaku Njeru, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Beatrice Kizi Nzovu, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Shamsa Hassan Sheikh, Nairobi, Kenya

Graduate Certificate in Restorative Justice

  • Lyle D. Seger, Lawrence, Kan.

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