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Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Victor Ochen to Receive 2015 Ambassador of Peace Award

From St. Norbert College, April 27, 2015
by Erich Wegenke, erich.wegenke@snc.edu, 920-403-3089

Victor Ochen, founder of the African Youth Initiative Network and a nominee for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, has been named the 2015 Ambassador of Peace by St. Norbert College's Norman Miller Center for Peace, Justice & Public Understanding. Ochen will visit the college campus in late September to receive the award; further details about his visit are yet to be announced.

Ochen and the African Youth Initiative Network, the organization he founded to heal trauma and to promote youth leadership, have been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). In its nomination letter, the AFSC wrote, "Victor Ochen has consistently shown both commitment and effectiveness in his efforts to address the needs of victims. He has worked for transitional justice, while simultaneously promoting human rights through nonviolent means, nourishing the leadership skills of other young people, and challenging systemic issues that lead to the continued vulnerability and suffering of war victims."

In response to Ochen's nomination, Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and himself a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, said, "My heart swells with pride to hear of one of my 'children' leading change in Africa. I wish him well as a potential recipient of this auspicious honor."

Forced as a child to flee the conflict between the government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Ochen supported his schooling and his family by making and selling charcoal -- even as schools and homes were burned to the ground and many of his schoolmates, neighbors and family members were abducted or killed. Despite his extreme circumstances, he maintained a commitment to nonviolence.

Ochen founded the African Youth Initiative Network, based in Lira, Uganda, in 2005 to work in two critical areas: medical rehabilitation for victims of conflict, and the building and promoting of youth leadership. The organization has grown into a national and international network of medical professionals that helps victims rebuild their homes and livelihoods. The youth-led network conducts outreach programs to promote dialogue between youth in different communities in northern Uganda, and has begun a one-week Peace Camp to teach skills in conflict resolution, peace building and leadership.

St. Norbert College's annual Ambassador of Peace award aims to honor Norbert of Xanten's legacy of reconciliation by recognizing individuals who advocate for sustainable peace in the world. The St. Norbert Ambassador of Peace demonstrates the qualities of a peacemaker in a consistent and outstanding manner: respect for persons, promotion of dialogue, nonviolent conflict resolution, reconciliation and forgiveness.

For more information, contact Catherine Kasten at 920-403-3919 or email catherine.kasten@snc.edu.