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Graduate Student Profiles – Jose Moraga

005 Jose Morega Diaz WebDecember 13, 2012 – The decision to study at Canadian Mennonite University required a leap of faith for graduate student Jose Moraga and his family, who came to Winnipeg from their home in Santiago, Chile.

“Continuing my studies outside of my country has been a very important step in my spiritual journey. I chose to study at CMU because I identify with the University’s focus on service, leadership, and reconciliation, its program flexibility, and its theology with a strong emphasis on justice and peace,” says Moraga.

Living, working, and studying in a foreign country has been a challenge for Moraga and his family – especially because of the language barrier. Moraga credits the CMU community with helping to ease that transition.

“At CMU, we have found people who have cared for us not only academically, but also on a personal level. Living here among people of different cultures has been an excellent experience for our daughters,” says Moraga. “The professors have been patient and motivating, and a diversity of opinions and experiences is something that is welcomed in the classroom. The staff at CMU have quickly become part of our family.”

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Student Profiles – Kathleen McCullough

December 13, 2012 – A love of basketball brought CMU student and athlete Kathleen McCullough to CMU – and it’s what continues to motivate and challenge this student who is in  her third year both at the school and on the team.

“Our team is like an extended family to me,” says McCullough, who is working towards her Bachelor of Arts Kathleen McCullough_40KBdegree in Social Sciences and Counselling. “As the year progresses, each player develops, both personally and in our athletic ability. My coach really puts the players first and has helped push me to my optimal performance.”

Kathleen started out with less than a full course load, but quickly learned to balance life as a full-time student with her basketball career. “I believe anybody can balance academics and athletics here – and succeed in both.”

CMU athletes are supported by the entire community, cheering on their teams through wins and even through losses. “The fans here never stop cheering,” says Kathleen. “It doesn’t matter which sport is happening, there will always be fans coming out to support their team. That support keeps a team going through tough competition and it’s something I look forward to every basketball season.”

CMU athletes consistently perform well in the league’s scholar-athlete rankings, with nine student-athletes in 2012 achieving grade-point averages (GSPs) of 4.0 and up. Also recognized for academic awards are scholar-athletes with GPAs of 3.0 (80%) or higher – in 2011, 47 members of CMU’s six varsity teams received recognition for academic excellence, representing 69% of all team members.

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Shadrack Mutabazi Maintains Hope for Congo

December 4, 2012 – Shadrack Mutabazi is a Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) student who is doing his best to concentrate on his studies and embrace his family’s new Canadian home. It’s an everyday challenge for him because even oceans can’t separate him from the trauma he’s faced in his lifetime – and the trauma that continues to plague his family  and his country.

Mutabazi was born into the Banyamulenge minority tribe in the Democratic Republic of Congo – which is to say, he was born into persecution and violence. He lived for ten years in exile in Rwanda and five years as a refugee in Uganda,  spending his life as the victim of xenophobic persecution and life threatening circumstances, witnessing unspeakable atrocities, and losing many loved ones along the way.

“I have lost many relatives – parents, uncles, brothers, cousins, colleagues, and friends – and I have narrowly escaped life threatening incidents myself. I grew up with no peace, no hope for stability,” he said.

While he’s been victimized, Mutabazi is anything but a victim. In Africa, he became an ordained pastor and founded the HOPU Organization to bring hope and peace to hurt and suffering people – both those who have been persecuted and the persecutors themselves. “Deep inside, we all have interest in finding reconciliation and forgiveness. Even the perpetrators don’t live in peace,” said Mutabazi. “HOPU uses music to repair and restore, building bridges between groups of people who have been fighting for their entire lives. We want to see reconciliation. And we will get there someday. But first, we focus on just getting people sitting in the same room together and finding some common ground – through music, poetry, and other cultural activities.”

This married father of six children has moved his family – including some of his siblings, for a total of eleven people – to Winnipeg in search of the peace and stability he’s been looking for his entire life. At CMU, he is studying Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies and he also attended CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuilding this past summer. He hopes that advanced education will help him continue to lead his people in healing and restitution.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned during my time at CMU so far has been the power of love and forgiveness,” he said. “It sounds so simple, but I’ve discovered that you must go inward first to find love and healing so that you can help others to do the same. This truth has been profound in my life.”

His work has continued here in Winnipeg, through Shalom Christian Outreach and Heritage Outreach, and Mutabazi plans to use his degree to continue promoting peace, unity, and social justice as both a church and a community leader.

When asked about his home country and the atrocities that continue there today, Mutabazi – holding onto his innate strength and optimism – said, “I see great possibilities for peace and reconciliation in the Congo.”

“The complexity of the real situation has been unrecognized – or undermined – by the organizations that have been trying to help there,” Mutabazi explained, “but God knows what is happening in the Congo. From my experience, I know that with deep spiritual maturity, we can remain positive and learn the process that can support resolution.”

“I am one of many who have experienced this extremely challenging journey,” he said. “What has happened in my life – the killing, the fear – surpasses all human understanding. But we can still preach the message of peace, love, and justice. God promises us, in John 14:27, a ‘peace that the world cannot give.’ Peace comes from God, and God has a wonderful plan for the Congo.”

This past week, increased tensions in the eastern Congo have sent some of the remaining members of Mutabazi’s family fleeing for their lives. Some are safe for now, but have been separated from their families and fears run high. Mutabazi is looking for ways to bring more of his family into Canada.

Article written by Lindsay Wright for CMU

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Student Profiles – Peter Dueck

Current CMU student Peter Dueck, who will graduate in 2012 with a four-year BA in Biblical and Theological Studies with a Philosophy minor, says his practicum experience was beneficial in a number of ways.

Dueck completed his practicum assignment during 2010-2011 as a Grade 7/8 teacher aid at St. Aidan’s Christian School, a private Christian school in Winnipeg that accepts students who are no longer welcome or no longer feel safe in the public school system. There, he tutored students while serving as a positive male role model for them, many of whom had none. 

“My placement challenged me to think seriously about the role of a Christian institution in a non-Christian neighbourhood, and what that role should be,” says Dueck, who is currently volunteering at the school once a week during his last year at CMU.

Dueck says his practicum complemented his academic studies and helped prepare him for an education role. However, he adds that his practicum was also about growing personally and professionally.

“CMU, as a whole, has taught me less about what I should do professionally and more about daily experience and how to work my way through it,” he shares. “CMU and my practicum experience guided me along the journey of discovery within the world; I have developed a greater understanding of how to live and work as a disciple of Christ.”

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Student Profiles – Frances Paletta

Mature student Frances Paletta came to CMU in 2005 to study Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies (PACTS), years after having attended Red River Community College, where she graduated, and The University of Winnipeg, after establishing herself as a successful businesswoman in the hospitality industry.

Paletta says she had put aside her aspirations of completing another degree when the family business workload became too demanding. Then, in 2004, the family sold one of the businesses in which she was heavily involved. “This afforded me the opportunity to enroll in CMU’s PACTS program,” says Paletta. “My desire was – and still is – to play a greater role in service within the church and broader community.”

She studied part time to maintain an active administrative role in the family business, serving as secretary-treasurer since January 2011, and to manage her mother’s homecare. Paletta has completed her PACTS coursework and hopes to finish her practicum and graduate in 2012.

“CMU has provided me with tools to promote peaceful ways of communication that include respect, justice, and mercy, and has helped me solidify my commitment to ways of peace,” Paletta shares. “I’ve also been given a fresh way to look at conflict. Now I see conflict as an opportunity for overcoming, for growth, and for well-being.

“The program has been instrumental both in how I live my life and how I carry out my business affairs,” she continues. “I already use the tools I’ve learned very actively in my current position. In the future, as my involvement in the family business changes, I hope I will be able to use this knowledge to bring about peaceful solutions where there is strife.”