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UNICEF worker, Eastern Mennonite graduate, killed in accident in Sudan

12.1. 2017 Written By: Hannah Heinzekehr, The Mennonite

Photo: Kumar Anuraj Jha, a 2007 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, chats in the delegate lounge on the second floor of the main UN building. (Photo by Jon Styer/EMU)

On Nov. 30, Kumar Anuraj Jha, a Child Protection Specialist for UNICEF in Sudan, was killed in a car accident in Khartoum. Jha, 40, was a 2007 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) Master’s program in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Jha’s wife, Jill (Landis) Jha, and two children were also in the car but survived the accident. Landis Jha was also a 2010 CJP graduate. According to a Dec. 1 EMU press release, Landis Jha and her daughters will be traveling from Sudan to Kathmandu, returning Anuraj to his home country of Nepal.

In a Dec. 1 letter, Abdullah A. Fadil, a representative of UNICEF in Sudan, wrote: “For the short period he has spent with UNICEF Sudan, Anuraj has played a crucial role in advancing the development, signing and implementation of the Action Plans for the nonrecruitment of children by armed groups and armed forces and hosting the recent successful first-ever visit of the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to Sudan. Anuraj had an immense passion for his work in ensuring children could have a second chance in life, and for his family.”

Jha joined UNICEF in Sudan in 2015. Prior to that, he worked with the UN Mission’s Child Protection Section in Nepal from 2007-2010, helping negotiate the release of 2,000 children from the Maoist army in Nepal. In 2010, he relocated to New York City to work with United Nations on issues related to children and armed conflict, with a focus on conflict in Africa.

Jha credited his time at CJP for helping him espouse humility and look for collaboration in his peacemaking work.

In a 2013 interview for EMU’s Peacebuilder magazine, Jha said: “CJP taught us to be self-reflective and to recognize that it’s never one person who has transformed something–hundreds of people contribute. And the more you acknowledge that and expand the circle, the better the outcome will be. The emphasis is on enabling others, empowering others, encouraging others.”

In a Dec. 1 email, Jayne Docherty, CJP program director and professor of leadership and public policy, wrote: “Anuraj wanted to study things outside our curriculum. He was adept at figuring out how to do that, and he brought insights from other disciplines back into the CJP classes. Most of all, we remember him as a kind and caring member of our community and that he never wavered from his commitment to protecting and working with young people caught up in violent conflicts.”

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