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Nobel Nominee Named as the 2015 St. Norbert Ambassador of Peace

With last month’s announcement of the United Nations sustainable development goals for the world came news that Victor Ochen would serve as Global Goals ambassador for peace and justice. 

The Ugandan peace-builder was also named Global Goals ambassador to Africa, essentially serving as the U.N.’s representative to his own people.

In a busy year of travel, the Nobel Peace prize nominee found time last week to accept the title of St. Norbert Ambassador of Peace. 

Forced as a child to flee the conflict between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, 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.

“Amidst all the challenges I experienced as a child … I made a commitment with my mother that, no matter what was going on, I would not pick up a gun. I would not learn how to shoot a gun. And up to now, I never shot a gun, and I will never shoot a gun. I learned this from my mother: Do not want revenge.

“Who really wants war to continue? Every parent who indoctrinates their children and teaches them: They’re bad, they’re good, wants the war to continue. Every government who sends weapons … . Every policymaker who signs to make military donations – that document wants war to continue. Every company who trades in peoples’ blood … every spiritual leader who, instead of peace, chooses to preach hatred, wants the war to continue.”

Ochen founded the African Youth Initiative Network 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 who help 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.

Ochen titled his Sept. 29 address “The New Faces of Peace - Youth and Children as Agents for Transformation in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings”; to his student audience, he urged, “As a young person, you must know that the world as it is belongs to all of us. And as a young person, imagine if one of us refuses to sign up for war. Maybe this one effort will make the difference. … Maybe this one effort will make or break the crisis … will break ISIS; will break Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Taliban, if one of us refuses to sign up for war. And this one effort can make the change, and that change will be the change for peace.”

St. Norbert College's annual Ambassador of Peace Award honors 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, through respect for persons, promotion of dialogue, nonviolent conflict resolution, reconciliation and forgiveness. Still in its first decade, the award program has recognized a distinguished list of names:

  • Janine P. Geske, 2007
  • Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., 2008
  • The Rev. John Dear, S.J., 2009
  • Sister Sally Ann Brickner, O.S.F., ’67, 2010
  • George A. Lopez, 2011
  • Bishop John R. Manz, 2012
  • The Rev. Jack MacCarthy, O.Praem.,67, 2013 
  • Charles and Peggy MacCarthy, 2013
  • Deacon Juan Barajas, 2014
  • Victor Ochen, 2015

Oct. 6, 2015