Congolese genocide survivor Rose Mapendo challenged the audience at the opening plenary session of Concordia’s Faith, Reason and World Affairs Symposium with a call to action.
“This is my wish for everyone,” she said, “to forgive.”
Rose Mapendo spoke about her experience in a death camp in Congo, but chose to focus more on her faith and forgiveness than the suffering she experienced.
“The story, it’s not just mine. It’s many peoples,” Mapendo said, reminding everyone that genocide is still happening.
Amy Watkin, the committee chair for this year’s symposium, expressed similar words as she spoke during her introduction of how she feared people would only believe genocide happens in Africa.
“My other fear is that you will give up or become overwhelmed,” Watkin said. “Start with knowledge and a desire to know more. Start with love and compassion.”
Rose Mapendo started an organization called Mapendo New Horizon’s whose mission statement is: “To give help and hope to vulnerable survivors of physical, psychological, and social trauma in Africa by ensuring them easy access to health care, protection and security.”
Concordia students have the ability to donate money to provide healthcare, education and transportation of technology to survivors of social trauma in Africa. There is also opportunity to donate time to help raise awareness through social media and gatherings.
Mapendo also added, “we need people with passion, people who can speak more languages, people who can travel and even sing.”
The reactions of students from Mapendo’s speech were shown by the flock of people that instantly surrounded her after the session. Senior Sarah Funkhouser, who is president of Concordia’s new interfaith group, Better Together, said, “One thing I will take away that she said was how can you hate somebody that you don’t know. Everybody has a story.”
Faculty members alike were in awe of Mapendo’s speech and music professor Dr. Jeffery Meyer expressed how her intense focus on forgiveness was a constant theme in persistence that is possible for both her and for us.
Kaia Miller is a senior majoring in communication studies and multimedia journalism. She came to Concordia planning to major in vocal performance, but after a semester discovered her interests ran in a different direction. With a suggestion from her mom to try communication, she realized her passion for journalism and research. She has held internships at MPR and Prairie Public Radio and hopes to work for a newspaper or radio new station.
Kaia is a member of the Concordia Choir, The Concordian and KORD Radio.