To look back on Issa Ebombolo’s (MPACS 2017) career thus far is to look back on a journey of leadership, collaboration, and great accomplishments. From developing a peace curriculum, helping develop programs and support for refugee camps, and now, in his current role, working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as Peacebuilding Coordinator for Zambia and Malawi, he has helped promote peace and restorative justice in all that he does. It is fitting that he has been chosen as the 2022 recipient of Conrad Grebel University College’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award. The Master of Peace and Conflict Studies website states that “turbulent times like ours call for people who understand systems of violence and conflict and are prepared to build peace with justice.” Issa embodies this mindset and has spent his career developing systems and programs with communities, governments, and Mennonite Central Committee, to promote peace and build systems of restorative justice and peacebuilding.
One of many outstanding accomplishments that Issa looks back on proudly is the founding of Peace Clubs. Formed in 2006, Peace Clubs as an organization now has more than 650 different clubs through 14 African countries in schools, communities, churches, and refugee camps. Issa formed community Peace Clubs to teach adults peacebuilding and conflict transformation skills. They then spread to schools, to teach abuse prevention and peacebuilding, and conflict resolution. Now MCC partners in Central America and Haiti are starting Peace Clubs, as well as a Canadian collaboration with The Meeting House church.
Issa’s journey with MCC started in 2003, when he attended a two-week class in peace education. He then used an MCC scholarship to get a 3-month certificate in peacebuilding and conflict transformation through the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Kitwe, Zambia. With his new credentials he was hired by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Alumni Committee Chair Michael Shum commended Issa for his service. “Issa’s work is a clear demonstration of how the PACS program at Grebel can lead to incredible outcomes for the wider community.”
“I chose to take a leave from the workforce and to go back to school to do a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Grebel in 2014 to increase my professional growth in the field of peacebuilding,” reflected Issa. He easily applied the knowledge and skills from the program when stepping into his role with MCC in 2017 as the Peacebuilding Coordinator for Zambia and Malawi. His work now involves collaboration with community organizations, individuals, and government of Zambia and Malawi.
Issa reflected that “since re-entering the professional sphere in my current role with MCC in May 2017, I have had the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills I acquired at Grebel.” Examples of these applications are extensive. Issa has worked to implement peacebuilding initiatives and programs with governments and with 68 Zambian and 31 Malawian correctional facilities to build a culture of peace among inmates and officers. Issa has also helped Zambia and Malawi correctional services establish a newly created Restorative Justice and Peace Building Unit in their departments and is “proud to have helped both the government of Zambia and Malawi to move away from a punitive system to a correctional system.” He has also worked closely with civil society to encourage the government of Zambia to implement the Correctional Act of 2021, promoting love, peace, restoration, and responsibility, in replacement of the Prison Act, which promoted violence that has existed since the colonial period.
“This work has taught me leadership, community programming, to be organized, and to remain focused,” reported Issa. “I have developed the desire to serve others with humility.” These accomplishments, and many more, embody what the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Grebel hopes to promote.
“Issa Ebombolo is inspirational!” explained PACS Chair Reina Neufeldt. “His deep reflection and knowledge of peace and conflict dynamics, paired with his transformational experiences and courageous spirit, make him a leading voice in peacebuilding in Zambia and Southern Africa.” The Distinguished Alumni Service Award will be presented to Issa at the MPACS 10th Anniversary Celebration in March 2023.
By Zoe Beilby, PACS Communications Assistant