February Student Profile: Chinenye Chukwuma-Nwuba

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chinenye Chukwuma-Nwuba is one of several international students currently enrolled in the MPACS program at Conrad Grebel. Growing up in Nigeria during times of relative peace and then violence, Chinenye brings her own perspective and experience to the program to gain a deeper understanding of what conflict is and how it develops:

 I’ve seen the Chinenye Chukwuma-Nwubagood and bad side of my lovely country… For a while everything was okay, and then sometime in 2000 our lives turned upside down and there were religious riots. We lost a couple of friends, relatives and lost some of our belongings. When you witness this sort of thing, it stays with you… It’s something I wake up to everyday and think about. I think that's what pushed me to want to understand people more and want to understand the dynamics of conflict: how people change, why people change.

She completed her undergraduate degree in politics and international relations in Nigeria, but found that it didn’t give her the understanding and satisfaction she was looking for. This was when she began looking into master’s programs related to peace and conflict, and stumbled upon the MPACS program in Canada, a place where she thought she could explore issues of conflict in a meaningful way, while also establishing her own personal sense of independence and experiencing an environment very different from the one in which she grew up.

Despite struggling with the chilly winter climate, the MPACS experience has not only provided her with a solid understanding of what peace and conflict really means at all levels, from family units to international settings, it has also enlarged her perspective and her way of interacting with the world. She explains how:

What you see as conflict is quite different from what I see as conflict. What you have experienced is quite different… When I hear conflict what I think about is bloodshed. We have different perspectives, so we might agree or disagree.

The idea that people have very different ideas of what peace and conflict looks like is really important for Chinenye because of her personal experience with it. She has noticed how talking about conflict is different from experiencing it, and can result in different levels of connection and passion. But she believes:

If people understand and accept the ‘existence of multiple realities’ and the way we see things, conflict in the world will be drastically reduced. 

Coming to Canada, she has encountered a lifestyle and a value system very different from her own and one that she may not always agree with or understand, but this has taught her that “there is fun in diversity” and it’s about accepting each other’s differences and letting it go. The world would be a boring place if we were all the same; can you even imagine a world where everyone looks exactly the same, has the same skin tone, the same hair colour, the same interests, and the same food preferences? Eradicating differences may reduce conflict, but trying to do so can also exacerbate it. We need to approach conflict with caution due to its vulnerability. Transforming conflict involves learning to embrace and accept those differences, even when we don’t agree.

In May, Chinenye will begin her MPACS internship with Community Justice Initiatives, an organization providing restorative justice practices and programs for the community. Her duties will include office administrative tasks, preparing proposals or reports, assisting in organising workshops and peer support meetings and she will also have the opportunity to co-facilitate mediation sessions. After graduation in December, she also plans to work in Canada for a bit and gain some more work experience in mediation, peace education and other areas related to social justice and human relations.