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Faculty Profiles

Faculty: In Their Own Words – Wendy Kroeker

WK01Wendy Kroeker, Instructor in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies and Co-Director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding, has taught at CMU since 2011.

What do you love about your work here?

Working at CMU gives us the opportunity to get to know students over a period of time, interacting with them during significant moments of life decision-making. Watching them take opportunities to engage in community events and issues gives me hope for the world.

What are you teaching right now that you’re most excited about?

This past semester, I taught an upper level PACTS course called Cultures of Violence, Cultures of Peace. I wanted to find ways for students to begin to love and appreciate theory. I’m thrilled if I’ve been part of inspiring an activist or the heart of an activist in someone, but as someone who’s doing my own academic work and working in an academic institution, I do want to excite students about theory. If we aren’t grounding ourselves in really thinking through things substantially, how do we move into meaningful action?

What are you researching and writing?

I am currently working on my PhD dissertation. I’m using the Philippines as a case study. I interviewed 36 Filipinos who are deeply engaged in peacebuilding, who come from highly colonial, conflict-impacted trauma environments, and I’m trying to honour their stories by creating some theory out of the patterns of what I’m hearing from them. Although I’m using the Philippines as my case study right now, I will eventually turn the findings from this dissertation project into looking at our Canadian context, and how the learnings from courageous local peacebuilders in the Philippines might lead to creative ways in which we can follow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action.

Where or how do students give you hope?

In November, a group of students went to a Standing Rock protest at Portage and Main. At a certain moment, they all went over the barricades and shut down Portage and Main at rush hour. One student spoke about her experience in chapel. Hearing her talk about moving over the barricades and realizing her own agency—that gave me some hope. It shows me that the things we talk about in class are moving deeper than the surface.

What do you most long for in your work?

I want students to look for opportunities and possibilities where they won’t just be bystanders, but upstanders – people who see a wrong and act upon it. They may not be at Portage and Main, but I want everyone to see possible ways of honouring the dignity and integrity of each person around them and see that there’s some way they can stand with people.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

Clairissa Kelly and I have begun a series of exchanges between my students and students in the Peguis Post-Secondary Transition Program. Clairissa and I have committed ourselves to thinking through how we can find ways to, with students, take steps of reconciliation. I invited the Peguis group to join the intro PACTS class in doing the blanket exercise, an interactive learning experience that teaches little-known indigenous rights history. Afterward, one of the participants shared about community experiences of residential schools. Her openness was a gift to all of us around the circle. That was a profound moment.

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Articles Student Profiles

Finding Peace in Unexpected Places

Studies at CMU inspire Congolese pastors to work toward reconciliation

If they weren’t studying together at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Theo Muthumwa and Shadrack Mutabazi would be adversaries.

The local pastors are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They survived ethnic violence and traumatic civil war in their homeland, years of exile elsewhere in the region, and arriving in Canada as immigrants. Both study Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies (PACTS) at CMU.

While they have much in common, Muthumwa is part of the Bantu majority from the eastern Congo, while Mutabazi is from the Banyamulenge minority. The differing peoples have a history of mistrust and war against one another.

Today, the two are working toward peace and reconciliation between their peoples.

Theo Muthumwa (left) and Shadrack Mutabazi (right)
Theo Muthumwa (left) and Shadrack Mutabazi (right)

Their paths first crossed during an introductory PACTS course at CMU.  Through periodic classroom discussions, their ethnic identities were revealed to each other, and with every in-class encounter they shared more stories, becoming close friends in the process.

“We are now telling (our) stories,” Muthumwa says. “If we didn’t talk, we would finish at CMU and I would think (Mutabazi) is my enemy.”

“We believe that leaders are servants of God who can be ambassadors of reconciliation to bring people together … and yet some of our colleagues are preaching the gospel of division,” Mutabazi adds.

Muthumwa says the two have a mission to promote peace and reconciliation because the Bible instructs them to do so in Matthew 9.

“It’s also the mission of CMU,” he says. “It has shaped us.”

Both came to CMU to study Theology, but they found PACTS inspiring.

Ultimately, it’s equipping them to work toward peace and reconciliation between their peoples.

“Banyamulenge in eastern Congo have a reputation of being people who bring trouble,” says Muthumwa, who is a Bantu. He has faced persecution, attempted murder, and ultimately exile for denouncing Congolese marginalization of the Banyamulenge, and for vocally renouncing his own people’s violence and hatred toward them.

As a Banyamulenge, Mutabazi has lost loved ones to horrific violence. After fleeing war-torn East Congo, he lived in exile in Rwanda for 10 years and in Uganda for five.

“I lost both my parents in the war,” he  says. “We have wounds in our hearts because of the war.”

After arriving in Canada as immigrants in the late 2000s, both felt unable to speak about their past and who they are, even as they read about events in the Congo and saw images of their homeland.

“So many Canadians don’t know our struggle,” Muthumwa says.

As ministers, both have planted churches while in the Congo, while in exile, and now in Canada as well.

In Winnipeg, Mutabazi started Shalom Christian Outreach and Muthumwa founded Philadelphia Miracle, both congregations serving Africans,  immigrants, and Canadian citizens.

They believe that telling their story is crucial to finding unity and forgiveness.

That doesn’t make it easy, though. Mutabazi recalls the time he stopped attending classes for a week after hearing a lecturer’s stories of ethnic genocide, which triggered his own memories of violence and left him in shock.

“These are deep, deep wounds,” Mutabazi says, emphasizing that facing the future requires truly understanding the past.

Theo and Shadrack“CMU is helping us to speak of where we have come from, where we are now – digging for knowledge and learning – and planning now for our future to go and meet survivors and help bring them together for reconciliation.”

Bringing unity to their people is a difficult process, but Mutabazi and Muthumwa have watched young people create space through music.

Mutabazi’s children joined other Congolese congregations to form a band that now regularly plays at Congolese church services and events across the city, bringing together communities that otherwise have little contact.

“(In Congo), people are using the youth for fighting. Let us use our youth and our leaders to have a dialogue,” Mutabazi says.

After seeing the potential significance of their work for the greater African community, Mutabazi and Muthumwa started Reconciliation Initiatives and Healing for African People.

“Our goal is not to end here, it is to also go back home. We have so many spiritual leaders not aware of peace,” Muthumwa says. “The studies we got from CMU are a bridge. We want to start first with those Congolese here, to create a sense of dialogue, and to create also dialogue in Africa.”

They also look with hope to the greater Winnipeg community.

“Most people here, we’ve found, are listeners – they want to listen to our stories, but we want them to go to the next step,” Muthumwa explains.

“Your grandparents came to Canada and they struggled. We are also facing these kinds of struggles – being in a new place, no family, no one to show you what to do. It’s not easy for us. We need people to welcome us.”

Photos and story by Matthew Veith (CMU ’13)

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Articles Student Profiles

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.”

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Audio Faculty interviews Sunday@CMU Radio

Jarem Sawatsky – Dignity and Respect in Teaching

Jarem Sawatsky
Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies
Interview Date: February 19, 2011

In this interview, Jarem speaks with David Balzer – host of Sunday@CMU Radio, about what it means for him to mentor and inspire students.

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For more info on Jarem Sawatsky, click here.