Alumnus Works for Positive Change

Monday, November 17, 2014

Paul HeidebrechtOn September 21st, Conrad Grebel University College celebrated the International Day of Peace with the official opening of the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement (CPA). The CPA at Grebel embraces an expansive view of peacemaking and brings together bold new partners from the business, government, church, civil society and academic sectors, fostering new ways to advance peace in a conflict-filled world. Newly named director of the Centre, Paul Heidebrecht (BASc ’94) has already been actively collaborating with existing CPA participants.

As the former Ottawa Office Director of Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Paul has shown adeptness at shaping government policies in relief, development, and peacebuilding. He has a deep commitment to building peace through partnerships and has strong relationships and credibility among Canadian churches, NGOs, and government leaders. “The inspiration I found in the efforts of partners working for positive change in communities in Canada and around the world, countered the toxicity of political debates that I was immersed in,” explained Paul. “Although some days it’s hard to believe, there are remarkably creative and courageous—if not ground-breaking—efforts to advance peace.”

With his diverse and deep academic interests in engineering, theology, and ethics, Paul brings many skills and research experience that will assist in shaping the CPA.

Currently, Paul is processing applications for the Frank and Helen Epp Peace Incubator. These “hot desks” are spaces used for peace start-ups. For example, Waterloo Public Interest Research Group has a desk in the incubator, and the Global Peace Council of Canada is being initiated by Master of Peace and Conflict Studies graduate Jahan Zeb in conjunction with Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala, to develop a peace studies curriculum. Another CPA participant, Stephen Jarnick of Peaceworks Productions, is focusing on producing videos that promote peace issues. In his role, Paul will be facilitating connections and encouraging the development of these start-ups.

“There is a lot happening already that I am thrilled to support, including the work of affiliate organizations like Project Ploughshares and Tamarack, as well as our new Incubator members,” said Paul. “It will be interesting to see how this new space shapes the work of the peace partners that are filling it. Just as importantly, it will be interesting to see how it ends up shaping Conrad Grebel University College, and the experience of those beyond the fourth floor.”

“Dr. Heidebrecht is superbly positioned to flourish in this new role at Grebel,” says Grebel president Susan Schultz Huxman. “As an academic, diplomat, peace advocate, and Mennonite agency representative, he can give leadership to the three goals of incubating peace in the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement: research, training, and community engagement.”

Paul Heidebrecht hosts a panel discussion

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