Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba

14 Emmanuel Ivorba croppedDr. Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba dreams of “a peaceful world, one in which the smiles of humanity shine brighter than the sun itself.” His life’s work is making this dream come true for his community and country, and reaching out to young people around the world to create a culture of peace.

In his native Nigeria, years of longstanding religious and tribal violence fueled by political strife and economic inequities have claimed thousands of lives and torn the fabric of society. Emmanuel has planted himself squarely in the epicenter of that violence, the city of Jos in Plateau State, to sow the seeds of peace between Christians and Muslims, Igbo and Hausa, rich and poor, farmer and herder, man and woman.

Emmanuel’s passion for peace is rooted in deeply personal experiences. Born in Wukari in north-central Nigeria in 1973, Emmanuel en- dured many hardships as a child. His father died when he was still very young, and his mother was forced to make difficult choices to provide for her three sons. She remarried in hopes that her new husband would have the means to send her sons to school, but as Emmanuel describes it, that was “a sad mistake…we watched our mother being beaten almost every day…It was such a difficult situation.” Emmanuel absorbed those painful lessons from childhood, but rather than reacting with anger or hatred, he committed himself to creating the kind of peaceful, nurturing world that he so longed for as a boy.

Emmanuel intended to become a Catholic priest and was supported by the church to enroll in seminary school for his secondary education. From there, his insatiable thirst for knowledge led him to university degrees in computer engineering and information technology, followed by a PhD in philosophy and religion. In 2000, he got a teaching job in a secondary school and, although he had not been trained as a teacher, Emmanuel says, “I at once found my calling, meaning and purpose in the classroom.” Since then, he has set out to build peace through education.

In 2005, Emmanuel decided to organize a youth peace conference. “I was search- ing for materials for the conference and ran across the Dalai Lama Foundation website,” he recalls. “The information there inspired me, so I sent them an email, asking to join their Study Circle initiative.” By spring 2007, Emmanuel had been invited to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India. “He addressed the very questions that have confronted me for such a long time—the meaning of life, our purpose, happiness, compassion, forgiveness, peace,” Emmanuel says. “That meeting transformed my life.” He flew home to Nigeria and launched two organizations—New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation and Creative Minds International Academy.

Emmanuel wants to mend the broken human relationships that allow hatred and violence to thrive in so many parts of our world. As he sees it, his job is to “educate the heart” by reaching out to young people from all religions and all walks of life and giving them tools to heal them- selves, build bridges across their differences, and create the space for peace to flourish.

Over the past six years, New Era and Creative Minds have helped thousands of young people to become peer leaders and agents of peace. New Era now boasts programs in interfaith dialogue, peace building, youth leadership, alcohol and drug use prevention, and poverty alleviation.

Emmanuel is tireless in his pursuit of peace, participating in countless related activities at international, national, and local levels. “Humanitarian work is my life. It is the air I breathe,” he says. “What is most important to me and brings me the greatest happiness is being able to help others find joy, meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in their own lives— as the Dalai Lama says, being ‘a protector for those without protection, a sanctuary for those in danger, a lamp for those without light, a place of refuge for those who lack shelter and a servant to all in need.’”