Peace builders share work and wisdom with apprentices worldwide

Author: Arts and Letters


The University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies has launched an innovative mentorship project designed to pass on the wisdom and skills of some of the world’s most experienced peace builders to a new generation of peace practitioners.

The Peacebuilding Apprenticeship Initiative, funded by the Fetzer Institute, connects promising young peace builders with mentors working in conflict zones around the world. For at least two years, about a dozen apprentices will work closely with four mentors on real-time peace building projects in Nepal, the Philippines, Bolivia, Thailand and the Southern Cone of South America.

“Many people are eager to be close to the on-the-ground work of building peace, but it’s difficult to acquire this experience,” said John Paul Lederach, professor of international peace building at the Kroc Institute, who directs the initiative and is one of the mentors.

“Academic programs and internships offer intellectual and practical skills, but students may only see bits and pieces of long-term conflicts and peace processes. This initiative allows them to engage for an extended period of time alongside mentors who have built trust and long track records in the conflicts.”

The initiative is a way for emerging peace builders to develop not only the external practices of peace but also the deep inner resources needed for this difficult work, Lederach said. “Inner resources” include the personal and spiritual strengths that sustain peace builders committed to long-term work in often remote and dangerous settings.

“Peace builders work under enormous stress during cycles of violence, and change may occur at a slow and frustrating pace,” he said. “To avoid burnout, they must develop the capacity to remain a constructive presence and to interact with empathy, creativity and a strong sense oftheir own voice. This is an important but often neglected aspect of the art and soul of peace building.”

Because experienced peace builders may work in relative isolation and be stretched thin from travel and consulting, the Notre Dame initiative has the added benefit of building teams that work together on complex conflicts over a period of time, Lederach said. Mentors identify their own apprentices (the program does not accept applications).

Besides Lederach, the mentors in the initial pilot project include Graciela Tapia and Francisco Diez, both attorney-mediators in Argentina who work with the United Nations Development Program and the Carter Center, respectively. They are focusing their teams of apprentices on conflicts related to the mining industry in Argentina and on the political conflict in Bolivia.

A fourth mentor is Mark Tamthai, professor and director of the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace at Payap University in Thailand, who works with his apprentices on ongoing efforts at the Thai-Burma border and in the conflict between Muslims and Buddhists in Southern Thailand.

Lederach has worked as a peace builder throughout the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia. His experience ranges from grassroots efforts to transform community conflicts to high-level mediation in Nicaragua, Somalia, Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and the Philippines. His apprentices, who will work with him in Nepal, the Philippines and Colombia, are:

  • Myla Leguro, of the Philippines, who has worked for Catholic Relief Services since 1991 on the design and implementation of peace and development projects on the island of Mindanao. She is a master’s student in peace studies at the Kroc Institute.
  • Kathryn Mansfield, of the United States, who holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a master’s degree in peace studies from Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute. She serves as Peacebuilding Network Coordinator at the Kroc Institute.
  • Laura Taylor, of the United States, who was a senior program officer at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego and has experience in Nepal and Latin America. She is working on her doctoral degree in psychology and peace studies at Notre Dame.
  • Manish Thapa, of Nepal, regional coordinator of the South Asian Regional Cooperation Academic Network and co-director of the International Peace Research Association. He is a visiting fellow at the Kroc Institute and a doctoral research candidate in international studies at the University of Tokyo.
  • Maria Lucia Zapata, of Colombia, a graduate of Kroc’s master’s program, who is pursuing a doctorate in international affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.

In addition to his teaching and practice, Lederach has published more than 20 training manuals and books, including “The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace,” which captures the unique combination of spirituality, technical expertise and vocational commitment for which he is known around the world.

The Fetzer Institute is a Michigan-based private foundation that believes efforts to address the world’s critical issues must go beyond political, social and economic strategies to their psychological and spiritual roots.

Contact: Joan Fallon, 574-631-8819 or

Originally published by Joan Fallon at on February 06, 2009.