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Annual Westheimer Peace Symposium to Highlight the Plight of Africa

Topic Is 'Africa's Blood, Sweat and Tears: Nonviolent Solutions'

October 3, 2013

Activist/author Lisa Shannon

Activist/author Lisa Shannon

Wilmington College will place a spotlight on the extraordinary human rights challenges in regions of Africa at the 23rd annual Westheimer Peace Symposium Oct. 16.

This year’s topic is “Africa’s Blood, Sweat and Tears: Nonviolent Solutions.”

Featured presenters during the all-day event include grassroots activist Lisa Shannon, author of A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman, and Chris Abani, an author/activist that was imprisoned in Nigeria for his writings.

Symposium events are free and open to the public.

Shannon is the first grassroots activist in the United States working to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in the Congo. She has devoted her work in support of women in that country, which she describes as fostering an environment that is especially detrimental and dangerous to woman.

One of O Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Women on the Planet, Shannon will explore the world’s deadliest war through the intimate lens of friendship with these Congolese women. Her presentation on A Thousand Sisters will begin at 7:30 p.m., in Heiland Theatre.

Abani will open the day’s presentations at 10:15 a.m., in Heiland Theatre, with “Stories of Struggle, Stories of Hope: Art, Politics and Human Rights."

He will address the role of art and literature in defending human rights and democracy. Abani, a recipient of the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award, will draw upon his own body of work and political activism. He has been described as possibly “the most courageous writer working right now.”

(LEFT) Chris Abani

Also, Eden Grace and Diane Randall will speak at 1:30 p.m., in Heiland Theatre, on what their respective Quaker organizations are doing to prevent election violence in Kenya. Grace is director of global ministries at Friends United Meeting (FUM) while Randall is executive secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Their presentation, “Preventing Election Violence in Kenya,” will highlight the two organizations’ partnership that resulted in the aftermath of FUM’s Africa Ministries Office’s work with Kenyan local leaders in healing communities torn apart by the post-election violence in 2008.

They will address actions they’ve taken to better ensure safety surrounding the 2013 elections in Kenya.

(RIGHT) Eden Grace
(FAR RIGHT) Diane Randall

The Wilmington College Chorale, under new director Tim Carpenter, will perform again this year at 3 p.m. in Heiland Theatre. The group has a history of presenting a musical interlude to the day with a repertoire related to the symposium’s topic.

Also, the film, Blood in the Mobile, which illustrates the connection between cell phones and civil war in the Congo, will be shown at 4 p.m. in Heiland Theatre.

Americans love their cell phones, but the production of these devices has a dark, bloody side. Director Frank Poulsen travels to the Congo to witness the illegal mining industry. Blood in the Mobile addresses consumers’ and corporations’ responsibility for the conflict in the Congo.

Coinciding with the day’s symposium is a gallery exhibit in WC’s Meriam R. Hare Quaker Heritage Center titled “A Show of Respect: A Body of Work Painted for the Children of War,” and an art show in Harcum Gallery featuring art professor Hal Shunk’s “Sabbatical Exhibit” of encaustic paintings and sculpture.

Complementing this year’s Westheimer Peace Symposium are two events, a showing of the 2006 film Blood Diamond Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m., in the Murphy Theatre in downtown Wilmington, for a cost of $5, and the Run for Congo Women road race Oct. 19, at 10 a.m., at Wilmington College's cross country course.

Information on the Run for Congo Women is available by contacting Ruth Brindle at the Quaker Heritage Center at (937) 382-6661 ext. 719. Also, see the Run for Congo Women Website and registration information on WC's event.

(RIGHT) College Chorale

The Westheimer Peace Symposium promotes the exploration of peace as a viable, realistic alternative in a complex, violence-prone world. Each year, speakers challenge WC students and the greater community by addressing a rotating array of topics, including nonviolence, social justice, the environment and the nature of war.

The late Charles and May Westheimer of Cincinnati endowed the peace-related lecture series in 1991 with the hope that it would be a forum for the College community to be explicit about peacemaking, social justice, humanitarian service and respect for all persons.