2024 CRS Fellows demonstrate the value of incorporating peace practice with peace research

Author: Lisa Gallagher

The spring 2024 semester at the Kroc Institute saw the arrival of two visiting research fellows from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), one of the world’s largest humanitarian relief organizations that serves more than 100 countries around the globe. The Kroc Institute and CRS have sponsored visiting fellowships since 2006, enabling fellows to pursue short-term research and writing projects related to peacebuilding while in residence at the University of Notre Dame and engaging with Kroc Institute students and faculty.

Ivonne Solorzano’s fellowship ran from mid-February to early March, while Henri Muhiya was in residence from March to mid-May.

Solorzano, a technical advisor for monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning for the Peacebuilding Platform at CRS LACRO (Latin America and the Caribbean), furthered her research on the promotion and defense of human dignity as the center for the construction of peace. “I began from the premise that the Church seeks to promote, safeguard, and defend that dignity so that people can develop their potential in harmony,” she explained. “One of the ways to accomplish this is to use the peacebuilding methodologies developed by CRS and its partners, and implemented by entities such as Caritas.” Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic-based confederation of more than 160 members working on a grassroots level to build a world based on justice and fraternal love, developed its training manual in 2002, co-authored by John Paul Lederach, that aims to provide resources and ideas to trainers in peacemaking.

“This fellowship has opened the doors to faculty, staff and fellows who have generously shared with me their time and diverse visions on human dignity,” Solorzano said. “These points of view have enriched the approach with which I was originally working. New questions have arisen thanks to these exchanges, giving me the time to advance my qualitative analyses.”

Muhiya is a CRS partner who serves as executive secretary to the Episcopal Commission for Natural Resources (CERN) of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) on advocacy. While at the Kroc Institute, he will continue his research on the link between natural resources and the wars experienced by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 1960 to 2021. “The results of this research can raise awareness using data that highlights the causes of the wars in the DRC, and to equip the Church to advocate for lasting peace.”

Muhiya shares that his fellowship will benefit him on multiple levels. “It exposes me to other people working on the subject of peace and other important subjects and provides me with a framework to deepen my research,” he said. A native French-speaker, he continued, “This fellowship will also provide the opportunity to practice listening, understanding, and speaking English.”

“The Kroc-CRS fellowships are a way to nurture a very important institutional relationship with CRS, one of the most active Catholic peacebuilding and development organizations in the world,” said Caesar Monteveccio, assistant director of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network (CPN) at the Kroc Institute. “These fellowships advance the mission of CPN and the Kroc Institute by enhancing the work of frontline peacebuilders through helping them relate what they do to the scholarship and resources available at Notre Dame.”