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Peace and conflict studies students, l to r: Peter Karari, Paul Cormier, Jodi Read, Robin Neustaeter, Sandra Krahn, Alka Kumar, Cathy Rocke, Grace Kyoon-Achan.

Peace and conflict studies students, l to r: Peter Karari, Paul Cormier, Jodi Read, Robin Neustaeter, Sandra Krahn, Alka Kumar, Cathy Rocke, Grace Kyoon-Achan.

Peacebuilding with a global reach

Mauro Centre is establishing Manitoba as a leader for studies in human rights

September 23, 2014 — 

With the recent opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), here’s a look at a U of M centre devoted to human rights research: the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice in St. Paul’s College.

The University of Manitoba has four such centres that focus on human rights; in addition to Mauro Centre, there’s also the Centre for Human Rights Research and the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics and the Institute for the Humanities, both in the Faculty of Arts.

Human rights is one of the research strengths identified at the U of M, with themes relating to healthy, safe, secure and sustainable food and bioproducts, sustainable prairie and northern communities, public and population health, new materials and technologies, and culture and creativity. Because of its background in human rights research, the university has been an active partner and integral part of the dialogue leading to the opening of the CMHR, with contributions from faculty, staff and students across many disciplines.

If there is one place on campus where the entire world seems to come together, it’s the Mauro Centre. Here, doctoral and masters-level students from many different countries converge.

 

If there is one place on campus where the entire world seems to come together, it’s the Mauro Centre.

 

Jodi Read, a U of M student working on public policies regarding border security, says she came to Winnipeg and the Mauro Centre at the insistence of a professor at her university in Virginia. “I realized that my goal of working to build a world with more peace and justice fit well within the program,” she says.

Other students have come to the centre from countries around the globe, including Kenya, India, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Botswana, Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Germany and Venezuela.

The Mauro Centre was established in 2001 with an initial donation of $1 million from Dr. Arthur V. Mauro. A former chancellor of the U of M, Mauro is a philanthropist with a lifelong commitment to opening dialogue between people about peace and justice. In its brief history, the centre has established a PhD Program in peace and conflict studies and created the joint MA program in peace and conflict studies with the Global College at the University of Winnipeg. It also coordinated the North American Conflict Resolution Student Exchange Program from 2003 to 2007 and has organized numerous outreach activities, such as the annual Sol Kanee Lecture on Peace and Justice in the fall and spring’s annual International Storytelling Festival — a festival that has reached a cumulative audience of more than 75,000 young people and adults.

St. Paul’s College has also provided more than $750,000 in scholarships to support PhD and MA students.

The Mauro Centre’s primary emphases are the cultural, religious and philosophical dimensions of peace and justice, including social, economic, and environmental aspects. The centre is also concerned with peace education, human rights, the role of international organizations and standards in the quest for peace and justice. Course topics at the doctoral level include interpersonal communication, international peace and conflict resolution, violence intervention, gender and conflict, theories of conflict and conflict resolution, and children and war.

The diversity and passion shown by its students paint a remarkable picture of a global community working towards a brighter future for people around the world.

 

The diversity and passion shown by its students paint a remarkable picture of a global community working towards a brighter future for people around the world.

 

Maureen Flaherty was the first to receive a PhD in peace and conflict studies and is Mauro Centre’s first graduate. In fact, her research received an award and was recently published as a book. Now part of the faculty of the Mauro Centre, Flaherty recently returned from the Ukraine where she was doing work on the empowerment of women in that country.

Sean Byrne and Jessica Senehi of the Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice.

Sean Byrne and Jessica Senehi of the Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice.

Mauro Centre director Sean Byrne is pleased the centre has attracted students from around the world who are dedicated to peacebuilding. Byrne has built a reputation as a researcher involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland, studying conflict resolution in an area of extreme tension.

“The doctorate is designed to provide a holistic and interdisciplinary approach that will prepare students to pursue independent research aimed at analyzing and resolving complex global issues on peace and justice,” Byrne notes. “We emphasize a variety of conflict resolution, social justice and peace studies tools, processes and methods.”

Another faculty member with the Mauro Centre is Jessica Senehi, who has been involved in the creation and organization of the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival. The festival brings attention to peacebuilding and conflict resolution through children’s presentations on topics such as war, violence and bullying.

Senehi stresses the importance of the peace and conflict studies program in the context of today’s global conflict crises.

“Research in peace and conflict studies is essential and demands a high standard of commitment, scholarship and professionalism,” she says. “Graduates from this program will make an important contribution to a wide variety of organizations, institutions, and government departments and to society as a whole.”

Graduates of advanced study in peace and conflict studies can bring their perspective to a range of professional settings, adds Senehi. The far-ranging possibilities include not-for-profit and advocacy organizations at the community, national, and international levels,  businesses requiring cross-cultural training, programs to prevent violence in the workplace or ombudspersons. In addition, governmental and nongovernmental agencies are finding a greater demand for researchers in these fields, especially in international settings and developing countries.

Peter Karari, Ph.D. student at the Mauro Centre

Peter Karari, Ph.D. student at the Mauro Centre.

This need is most obvious to Peter Karari, a student from Kenya whose academic work focuses on political violence and organized crime. His passion for peace is driven by his own terrible experience.

He explains, “My focus on peace and conflict studies is influenced by my background in poverty, my work with the poor in the Kibera slums in Kenya, the 1998 terrorist attacks on the American Embassy in Kenya and ethnic violence in 2008. We had started a self-help group for the marginalized and the vulnerable in Ufundi House next door to the Embassy. We lost fourteen of our close friends in the attack.”

 

Karari: “My focus on peace and conflict studies is influenced by my background in poverty, my work with the poor in the Kibera slums in Kenya, the 1998 terrorist attacks on the American Embassy in Kenya and ethnic violence in 2008…. We lost fourteen of our close friends in the attack.”

 

Karari was desperate to understand how best to intervene in the conflict and help the lives of those who were suffering — mostly poor and destitute people at the mercy of the rich and those in power. He asked many questions about what he saw and experienced in his native country.

“Why did innocent Kenyans have to die? What did the terrorists want? Why not use peaceful means?

“I wanted to learn why there is terrorism in the world and how we can avoid such aggression,” he says.

Karari joined Compassion International, a non-governmental organization working in Kenya, and found himself working with orphans, single mothers and people with HIV/AIDS — as he calls them: “the poorest of the poor.”

After pursuing a bachelor’s degree, he wanted more knowledge and ideas. In 2007, he was among eight out of eight thousand applicants to receive a scholarship to study peace and conflict studies in Germany. He studied conflict on many diverse subjects: war in Afghanistan, the Bush Doctrine, climate change and terrorism.

But while he was there, ethnic violence swarmed his homeland and he became grief-stricken.

 

While Karari was in Germany on a scholarship for peace and conflict studies, ethnic violence swarmed his homeland and he became grief-stricken.

 

His questions multiplied and became more urgent. “I understood that I had to gain more knowledge on how to bring peace in the world and how to solve conflicts peacefully,” he says.

Like so many others, Karari came to the U of M specifically for the PhD program in peace and conflict studies at the Mauro Centre. His personal experience and his drive for peace likely best exemplifies the goals and direction of the centre.

“What can buy eternal peace in the world?” he asks solemnly.

Perhaps he is in the right place. The bell tower of St. Paul’s College rises above the Mauro Centre and its bells peal every hour, alerting the world that the U of M is helping to establish Manitoba as the global capital for learning and studies in fields related to human rights, towards the betterment of humankind.

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2 comments on “Peacebuilding with a global reach

  1. Ongere Michael Otieno.

    Wow, Dr.Peter Karari is indeed a masterpiece of this great institution.

    Am most humbled and privileged to be his student (Dr. Karari) at Karatina University- Kenya.

    He is so inspiring, and am looking forward to joining U of M one day.

    Reply
  2. Brian Wahinya

    Dr. Peter K. you are an icon of your own motivation you have given unto me. My hope is sometime I will do my post graduate degree at U of M.

    Reply

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