Conrad Grebel hosts South Sudanese Peacebuilding Seminars

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

By Fred W. Martin

In December of 2013, South Sudan fell into debilitating internal violence. This also affected the South Sudanese community in Kitchener-Waterloo. Leaders in the community identified the need for local conflict mediation training.

This fall, the newly created MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement at Conrad Grebel University College responded to this call from the KW South Sudanese Community and its Peacebuilding Taskforce by coordinating a six-week conflict management course.  

Twenty-five participants were drawn from various ethnic and tribal groups, young and old, women and men.  Rudi Oballo'ker Okot, a recent Peace and Conflict Studies grad, helped to coordinate a participant survey that was very positive. One member wrote: “This is a wonderful workshop. It encourages and allows critical thinking in a safe environment which ultimately encourages peace.”

Mediator Keith Regehr, a graduate of Grebel’s Master of Theological Studies and of the Conflict Management Certificate program, led the seminars with assistance from Noe Gonzalia, a Mennonite pastor originally from Colombia, who completed a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies last year at Grebel.  The seminars were administered by Sue Baker who manages the Conflict Management Certificate program at Grebel.  Funding was provided by First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, and the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement. Project Ploughshares, another CPA participant, brought together the partners in this venture, and Reina Neufeldt from the PACS faculty assisted in the planning process.

Nyrini Pal was a participant. She has lived in Canada for a number of years and is a graduate from Rockway Mennonite Collegiate. She observed that “while folks were sharing their opinions on the cause of the conflict, many trainees began to realize that although everyone was responsible for a solution, not everyone had the same idea on solutions. This caused tensions within the class; however, it was the kind of tension that demanded a patient ear and selective tongues which many of us soon learned. This gave us an idea on how difficult it must be for the mediators who are involved back home.”

There is clear energy for ongoing work. There are plans for further training, discussion forums, and multi-cultural events with the KW South Sudanese community.

“This training squarely fits within two of the three major goals of the CPA – training and community outreach," noted Paul Heidebrecht, the CPA Director. The third major goal of the CPA involves research.

South Sudanese group

Keith Regehr, Noe Gonzalia (both seated centre), and Rudi Oballo'ker Okot (front right) pose with conflict resolution participants from the South Sudanese community in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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