Michael J. Sharp, second from left, participates in a 2013 meeting at a camp for internally displaced people in the town of Shasha, North Kivu, Eastern DR Congo. Pictured, from left, are Mitterrand Aoci Lwitela of ECC-MERU, Sharp, Patrick Maxwell of MCC and Fidèle Kyanza, director of Church of Christ of Congo's Ministry of Refugees and Emergencies (ECC-MERU), an MCC partner organization. (Photo by MCC/Timothy Lind)

Mennonite Central Committee establishes Michael J. Sharp Global Peacemaker Award

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) announced the establishment of the annual Michael J. Sharp Global Peacemaker Award, which will recognize and encourage courageous peacebuilders across the world.

The award will be open to a person or organization who is currently involved in peacebuilding and is an MCC partner. The award, which will include a monetary prize, will be stewarded by the MCC United Nations Office, with the awardee chosen by a global selection committee. The first awardee will be announced in October 2022. More details regarding the award will be available this summer on the MCC website.

The Global Peacemaker Award is named in honor of Michael J. Sharp, who served in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with MCC and later with the United Nations. Sharp, an ‘05 EMU graduate, was a beloved member of the EMU community. Learn more about Sharp’s legacy: 

  • The Michael J. Sharp Peace and Justice Endowed Scholarship Fund, started by Sharp’s family alongside extended family and friends, provides need-based aid to graduate students at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding with priority given to students from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has already enabled David Nyiringabo MA ’20 and Yolanda Emedi to study at CJP and is currently valued at $265,000, with the goal being $500,000 total value. Read more or contribute to the fund.

MCC consulted with MCC Congolese and African representatives, who support the award in the name of Michael J. Sharp given his commitment to peacebuilding, anticolonial work and Mennonite peace witness. As Sharp was a young adult, MCC hopes that this award will be an inspiration to young adult peacebuilders. 

On March 12, 2017, along with his UN colleague Zaida Catalán of Sweden, Sharp was ambushed and murdered by unknown assailants in DR Congo. A UN expert on armed groups, Sharp was on his way to meet with a new militia group and to document human rights abuses. He was 34. Sharp and Catalán’s interpreter, Betu Tshintela, also may have been killed, but today he and three motorbike drivers are still missing, according to conflicting news sources.

Prior to Sharp coming to DR Congo with MCC in 2012, courageous Congolese were working for many years, risking and sacrificing their lives for peacebuilding in eastern Congo. When Sharp came to the country, these Congolese welcomed him, educated and connected him to networks, and encouraged him in his front-line peacebuilding work with MCC and later with the United Nations. After his murder, Sharp’s name generated national and international interest. The peacebuilding work of Congolese partners now continues. 

Mulanda Jimmy Juma, MCC representative for DR Congo, worked closely with Sharp. From a Congolese perspective, says Mulanda, “an award in Michael’s name is warmly welcomed. His name in this country has value, is respected, is honored. Even in government circles. They have come to understand what he stood for, defending human rights of the people. Michael lived among us and learned from us.”

The Michael J. Sharp Global Peacemaker Award honors the faithful work of the Congolese peacebuilders who Sharp worked alongside, and of Sharp with both MCC and the United Nations. Through the award, MCC hopes to provide an ongoing means of recognizing peacebuilders who exemplify MCC’s commitment to peace and justice across the world. 

For more information, please email unoffice2@mcc.org

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