Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, a recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
, was honoured for her devotion to peace and relief of suffering on Oct. 16 at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU).
“From the moment I was announced as one of the core recipients of the Noble Peace Prize, every night and morning I say my prayers [and] I ask, ‘Lord, keep me humble,’ ” said Gbowee, a 2007 EMU graduate who earned a master’s degree in conflict transformation. “By being humble, I hope to touch more lives and can be an example for the next generation of peacebuilders.”
Gbowee gave talks to public audiences five times over the weekend. She is the first Nobel Prize winner in EMU’s 94-year his-tory. Gbowee led a women’s movement that was instrumental in ending 14 years of civil war in Liberia in 2003. She is co-founder and executive director of Women, Peace and Security Network Africa.
Following the end of the civil war, Gbowee came to EMU in 2004 for four classes in the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) and then returned to the Center of Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) in 2005 to participate in a round-table discussion of strategies for trauma awareness and resilience.
In a press conference at the beginning of the weekend, Gbowee credited EMU with helping her to heal from the trauma she had experienced, and with developing an understanding of the roots of violent conflict from a worldwide perspective.
She cofounded Women, Peace and Security Network Africa with a fellow SPI alumna, Thelma Ekiyor of Nigeria. In her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, Gbowee discloses additional EMU connections that influenced her work, including CJP professors Hizkias Assefa, John Paul Lederach and Howard Zehr.
At the same ceremony, CMU also honoured the late Glen Lapp, a Mennonite Central Committee volunteer killed in Afghanistan last year with nine others on an international assistance mission team. Lapp was killed when his team was returning from a difficult mission to bring health care to a rural mountainous region of Afghanistan.
EMU awarded its annual Distinguished Service Award to Lapp, the first time the university has ever given an alumni award posthumously. Lapp’s parents, Marvin and Mary Lapp of Lancaster, Pa., and other family members accepted the award on his behalf.