One year after death, scholarship furthers legacy of EMU grad

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — A scholarship created to further the peacebuilding legacy of Eastern Mennonite University graduate Michael Sharp has raised tens-of-thousands of dollars one year after his death.

Michael Sharp visits with Elizabeth Namavu and children in Mubimbi Camp, home to displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A coordinator for the Mennonite Central, he has an unusual approach to peacemaking. Credit: Jana Asenbrennerova/Courtesy of MCC

Sharp — known as M.J. — was ambushed and killed in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in March 2017. The UN expert, tasked with investigating human rights abuses in the central region of the African country, was on his way to meet leaders of a militia group.

The Michael J. Sharp Peace and Justice Endowed Scholarship Fund, which has raised $31,000 so far, was created by those close to the 2005 grad.

In the aftermath of his murder, WHSV spoke with some of those who remembered him best. You can find that story here.

The goal of the scholarship is to provide financial backing to students studying conflict transformation and restorative justice.

The first award was given to a future student from DRC.

"That's the whole purpose of this scholarship, to give the theory and the tools that peace builders need to do their work," said Daryl Byler, the Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at EMU.

A $100,000 goal has been set for the scholarship.

Byler, whose daughter took classes with Sharp while at EMU, said the late peace-builder left a lasting impact on the Harrisonburg campus.

"To me, he's a reminder that persons who do important work in the world can also be persons who have fun. I think that's really what M.J.'s legacy is," said Byler

Part of the money for the scholarship was raised with a crowdfunding campaign. Find out more here.

The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding has more than 615 alumni in nearly 80 countries around the world applying skills in conflict analysis, inclusive decision-making and promoting a restorative approach to justice, according to the university.