From Inside USD – “Love” is a word Naumana Suleman uses to describe her journey in life. Within that journey is a heartfelt desire to spread compassion throughout the world.
Currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Peace and Justice Studies in the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, Suleman will be graduating this month. Originally from a large Christian community settlement in Pakistan, Suleman came to the University of San Diego to pursue a focus in peace studies.
Suleman, photographed in the second row on the far right, with her classmates in the 2015 Peace and Justice Studies Cohort
Influenced by her parents, Suleman credits them for her upbringing and aspiration to “contribute her part for a positive change in the world.” Adopted at an early age, Suleman recognizes her parents’ love as a key part of whom she is today saying, “it enriched me as a person.”
Growing up in Lahore, Pakistan, which is called the “heart of Pakistan,” Suleman describes Lahore as a historic city, “a city of people with lively hearts.”
“People know that Pakistan has been facing terrorism and faith-based violence, along with some other human rights issues, which has damaged the social fabric of Pakistani society. But people should also know the bright faces of Pakistan, which are Human Rights Defenders. Many have sacrificed their lives and many are still struggling for a just and peaceful society in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistanis have talents and a lot of abilities, but they face a lack of opportunities and a conducive environment,” Suleman said.
While working for a few years as a teacher in a government school, Suleman saw firsthand the discrimination towards different minority groups.
“I saw the discrimination, which was going on in regards to the minority children studying in that school,” Suleman said. “If the teachers, who are well-educated, are still not able to be not biased with regards to their colleagues or with regards to their students, how can this be?”
Since 2006, Suleman has worked with the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a part of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and has witnessed the challenging situations for “the general masses and specifically the marginalized and minority communities in her country.” Because of this work, Suleman was inspired to pursue higher education in peace and justice studies. Choosing the USD program, Suleman praises the faculty as well as her peers, marveling at friendships she has made along the way.
“For me, this program, at this stage of my career, is an incomparable opportunity. It is something that has helped me to reflect and to learn about issues more in depth,” she said. “Having conversations and studying with my colleagues from different parts of the United States and the world, making new friendships, … and the courses being taught here are very much connected and close to my work in Pakistan.”
For Suleman, her passion for peace has always been a part of who she is. “I have chosen a human rights path because, for me, it’s the basic notion of life … the basic notion of equality.”
In a country where she sees discrimination against minorities, notably religious minorities, Suleman hopes that equality will overcome any barrier, and that one day she will see a rebuilding of the social fabric that has been damaged by religious, ethnic, and linguistic tensions.
Going forward, Suleman realizes that alone she is not able to create change, but she has the desire to contribute any way she can, hoping to “work for a world where people can enjoy their rights on the basis of equality,” and that one day, everyone will experience the joy and peace they deserve.
Suleman acknowledges that the pursuit of equality is necessary but involves risks, recognizing the importance of creating a just and peaceful society.
“We should not lose hope. We should be optimistic. I know there are several challenges. We should be a kind of strength … keeping our hope and faith and letting the light of love guide us,” she said.
— Allyson Meyer ’16