Alumni Profile • Dick Andzenge '79
Running errands for God

Dick Andzenge '79On Christmas Day Dick Andzenge ’79 and 10 other Nigerian nationals of the Tiv people living in the U.S. and U.K. traveled to Gboko, Nigeria, to meet with Tiv leaders. Of the trip, Andzenge said, “I was running on an errand of God, an errand for peace.”

Andzenge and the 10 others are members of the Mutual Union of Tiv People in America (MUTA). Since forming in Grand Rapids in 1993, the organization has been working to persuade Tiv leaders in Nigeria that it could be a serious partner with them in their people’s development. The first step, Andzenge said, is to encourage these leaders to take up a new way of handling conflicts — between political parties and clans, and between neighboring tribes — that have ravaged the Tiv for generations. That’s no small errand.

The Christmastime delegation saw signs that, like all God’s errands, theirs is not an impossible one. “We were not there to lay blame,” Andzenge explained, “but to ask these leaders to outdo each other in stopping the violence and leading their supporters in positive social action.”

Though not all the leaders in the conflicts came to the meeting, held at the palace of the Paramount King of the Tiv, more than 100 prominent Tiv attended. Peace was not declared, but Andzenge considers the gathering a success nonetheless. All representatives at the meeting, the first of its kind, agreed that the process of looking for peace should be continued and should involve only the key players in the conflicts, including those who did not attend the meeting. Further, participants agreed that the peace process should be moderated by MUTA.

MUTA’s approach — inciting opponents to compete with each other in furthering peace and building social institutions — is a method that Andzenge has seen work in the Balkans. He is a member of the World Society of Victimology (WSV), the organization that developed the declaration of principles that the United Nations used to create standards for trying crimes committed during and after the fall of the former Yugoslavia. Andzenge served as a representative of the WSV at the opening trial of Dusan Tadic, a Serbian militant convicted for crimes against humanity in 1997.

Victimology, as a discipline, not only studies the effects of crime on victims, but also looks at the suffering of victims as a way of understanding the perpetrators of violence. It’s a subject that Andzenge teaches, along with criminology, at St. Cloud State University (Minn.). He also directs the school’s Justice Research Center and co-directs a post-graduate seminar in victimology each May in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

All these things, like his work for peace among the Tiv, Andzenge considers God’s errands for him — particular situations in which he can lend aid. To them all he brings a passion rooted in his personal identity.

“I am a product of the Christian Reformed Church’s missionary work among the Tiv,” Andzenge said. “I came to America and to Calvin because a missionary doctor told me God had a purpose for my life. My passion has been to witness to, and to get others to realize and appreciate, the sacrificial service of missionaries that has made so many things possible for so many of us.”