Funding a Student, Cultivating Peace

Friday, September 2, 2016TOPICS: Global ImpactAlumni

Sister Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue, Class of 2016
begin quote“I like to say, ‘some give by going, some go by giving.” I was fortunate to come here because another person decided to make a donation. And because of this, I will have the opportunity to broaden my knowledge for bringing together diverse communitie

 

Imagine trying to teach the idea of tolerating differences to a community mired in government corruption, violent conflict, and religious extremism. Sister Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue doesn’t just imagine it, she lives it– yet she’s undeterred. This Nigerian nun who already holds a master’s degree in international affairs and diplomacy serves as the Director of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja Liaison/Interreligious Dialogue Office and as the Co-Chair of the Women of Faith Network in her homeland, bringing together Christian and Muslim women to work for peace in Nigeria. And thanks to a tip from Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, her Bishop, she discovered the Joan B. Kroc Scholarship for Peace and Justice Studies and the Clergy Scholarship, granting her the opportunity to expand her knowledge in support of her work.

At the Kroc School, as she learns more about effective ways of countering violent extremism, Sister Agatha is finding that it’s not just about conflict, but about peace. “And when we try to find common ground, we can better value peace and justice, we can understand differences, and we start to see change. Learning about conflict analysis and resolution for instance, has reshaped the way I approach peacebuilding– by understanding the root cause of the problem I can consider how to best engage the local community in resolving or managing the problem.”

Thanks and giving.

With a calm demeanor and lilting, soft voice, Sister Agatha pours out deep gratitude for the scholarship, her Bishop who facilitated it, and the donors that made it all possible. “These generous donors are building peace by giving, but they’re not just giving to me, they are giving to an entire community. I am very fortunate to have this opportunity to come here and gain the skills to make a difference in Nigeria by bringing together those with opposing views and beliefs. So many people will benefit from the money that is given to me.” Reconstructing peace in Nigeria means impacting a country that experienced the largest increase in terrorist activity in 2014 with 7,512 deaths – a devastating increase of over 300% in one year.

While her approach may be gentle, Sister Agatha radiates confidence and conviction when speaking about the challenges facing Nigerians. This staunch humanitarian knows that the process of peace takes global collaboration. That’s why the Kroc School’s International Negotiation class has piqued her interest. This is fertile ground for how to engage others using strategies like community-driven problem solving to achieve success. “What happens in Nigeria will not just affect me, but you too. So building bridges across divides in our communities and countries is still the best way to move forward. And by developing my negotiation skills, I have the tools to build those bridges.”

Empowered with this shift in thinking, Sister Agatha is unearthing new strategies for restoring the justice that was deprived from Nigerians by their own government and people to create change. “What I’m learning here, It’s already informing my work.” And in Nigeria, that power of one can influence global change.

 

 

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies

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