A friend died on Friday, April 2, 2021. He was a talented young man with a promising career in peace and psychology. I have tried to process his death, but nothing in my training or life experiences has prepared me for this tragedy. Jude and I corresponded on March 10. I congratulated him on Instagram on his efforts to build Brain Drive, a mental health app, and he thanked me for my comments. Jude was highly driven, searching for solutions to problems that he, more than any other person I have ever met, intimately understood. His death by suicide compels us to heighten efforts in dealing with mental health issues. Below is a profile I wrote about Jude during our first year in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame.
Majd Alshoufi is the founder and chairman of the board of directors of New Syrian Human (NSH), an NGO providing psychosocial support and peacebuilding services to Syrian refugees worldwide. The NGO conducts holistic and sustainable communal processes of change through evidence-based and locally-led programming.
Majd’s passion for social change has evolved; as a child, he had a habit of observing and analyzing situations, “I was always interested in how I felt, I knew that I wasn’t happy with the way things were, and I wanted to change them.” Majd says.
His interest in peacebuilding took roots during his sophomore year in college when he attended a psychosocial class. However, the turning point was when he was arrested for participating in a peaceful demonstration. After his release, he fled to United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and then Turkey. Before starting a psychosocial support NGO, the forerunner to New Syrian Human, he worked with the Catholic Relief Services.
Majd is interested in psychosocial training and identities; he believes, “Identities are key to conflicts and have borders. When violence is promoted, these borders become bloody as people start killing each other, and the more they do this, the more they keep defining themselves in relation to the “other.” He has learned that you will reach an understanding when you develop an emotional bond with a person and probably develop a common or pluralistic identity. He is attending Notre Dame to reinforce his skills in this field and peacebuilding in general.
Majd loves peacebuilding, especially training people. He says, “peacebuilding is never a job to me,” he quips, “it is a vocation, and it is something I find deep satisfaction in doing.” That is the motivation that led him to abandon the well-paying engineering profession to work for social change.
Majd “Jude” Alshoufi looked for a home—a place from which he can work to develop solutions to mental health and peace challenges. He died young before finding the home or achieving his dreams. His quest will live in all of us—those who knew him and those who care passionately about mental health. We should all care. Jude, Rest in Peace!