Wilmington College’s Westheimer Peace Symposium enlightened students, faculty, and community members on the topic of “Africa’s Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Nonviolent Solutions”. Among the guest speakers hosted at the event was Lisa Shannon who shared her experiences of exploration and activism for Congolese women. The humanitarian crisis of the Congo is of the worst rape pandemic and sexual slavery account to ever exist in recorded history. The lives of over 5.4 million people have been taken away from this forgotten crisis since the year of 1998.
Shannon shared her second account stories from the friendships made through sponsorships of women victims. To learn more about the accounts of these women and their sufferings, Shannon traveled to Congo. During the symposium she shared some of the stories she collected- some stories of hope and peace, others awakening of the inhumane travesties continuing to happen in the Congo and throughout war stricken and militant parts of Africa. “When millions of people are dying and no one is talking about it- it sends a message that these people are not human” explained Shannon, as she addressed the disregard of American coverage on the crisis. She was told in an interview that “Americans do not have room for more than one international conflict in their psyches”. She also expressed that the way Americans speak of the disillusioned conflicts of Africa is that they are “unthinkable…unspeakable…and unimaginable”. Shannon argued that these words detach people from feeling empathy and from feeling like similar situations are of no threat to themselves. “There is no greater threat to humanity than the ability to switch off the empathy switch… when we exercise empathy, we exercise power” enthused Shannon.
Her stories were stories of awareness and response for Congolese women and the international tragedies and inhumanities of Africa. A special follow up event on Saturday, October 19th is a “Run for Congo Women” where Wilmington College students can express the values of peaceful protest by walking, jogging, or running for the cause. Another local event at the Murphy Theatre on October 24th presents a free viewing of a documentary called “The Invisible War” which sheds a light on stories of sexually abused women in the U.S military. Awareness is the first step followed by response in which students, faculty, staff, and members of the community are given the opportunity to do so in these coming events.