The student weekly of St. Olaf College
Manitou Messenger: Hope for Congo lives here

Hope for Congo lives here

By Hayley Wender
Contributing Writer
Friday, May 7, 2004

The years of civil unrest and economic slump that have plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo have passed with little recognition from the rest of the world. Border skirmishes, ethnic violence and rebel attacks afflict the country resulting in the horrific deaths, mutilations and the raping of thousands of people.

If the sickening violence wasnt enough, additional factors contribute to the low prospects of a better life, such as the repression of the media and religion. Considering the severe restrictions imposed upon the people, only few citizens have had the opportunity to pursue academic careers. But fortunately for them, opportunity may be coming their way.

The Methodist Theological Seminary at Mulunwishi, a school that fosters intellectual and spiritual development, is a savior for any family/individual that raises or is offered a scholarship for the $2,000 it costs to attend. The beauty of the seminary is that not only does it supply intellectual and spiritual education, but also it provides religious training to the wives of the students, not to mention primary and secondary schooling for children and food and shelter to everyone.

With a goal to educate men and women to better serve their church and country, the university has become the high level training center for not only Methodist seminary students but for pastors and civic leaders of other denominations.

But what does any of this have to do with St. Olaf? The link between the Congo and our college is Rachel Dixon, a current junior who had the opportunity to teach English at the Mulungwishi seminary this past interim. Appalled by the lack of supplies yet amazed by the incredible will of the students (most of whom were older than herself), Rachel returned from the Congo with a mission to make the struggle and courage of the Congo people known. Alas, with the assistance of friends Meg Rooney 07 and Blake Olson 04, Art for Education was born.

The fundraising project seeks to raise awareness and financial support for the efforts of the Methodist Theological Seminary. Using their artistic abilities as outlets for social activism, Dixon, Rooney and Olson have dedicated their time, effort and art to the social betterment of complete strangers. Gathering projects from fellow art students and professors, Dixon, Rooney and Olson mustered together and on Saturday, sold the art of St. Olaf students (primarily their own) and faculty in an effort to raise money for the Seminary.

The works being sold included Dixons photographs of the Congo, ceramics by Rooney and pottery provided by Olson, who is also a Finstad Grant recipient. In the future, the group hopes to expand the works to include two-dimensional projects such as watercolors and prints. The profits of the sales will be used to benefit the people attending the Seminary in the form of supplies or scholarship awards.

In an age when it is far too easy to ignore the goings on of the world, it is a rare and wonderful thing when you find youths interested in a society outside their own. At no profit to themselves, Dixon, Rooney and Olson organized the Art for Ed program, with their sales contributing to the improvement and accessibility of higher education for the Congolese.

The Congo is a place where entire villages have been massacred, religious and intellectual freedoms repressed, and up is basically the only direction education can go. Without support, higher education in the Congo is in danger of dying out. As the Art for Ed program so artistically illustrated, it is our duty to raise our voices and make society aware of others, like the students in the Congos, struggles.

Whether it is fighting cancer for Relay for Life or selling art for a college in the Congo, the important issue is that people are raising awareness. And no matter what the financial gain, the fundraiser Art for Ed made a difference because of what it spiritually and socially represented: mankind helping mankind with faith&and a voice.

The Manitou Messenger is a student publication of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. It is published weekly during the academic year except during vacations, exam periods and interim. The cost for one year's subscription is $45.00. Postage is paid in Northfield, Minnesota. Manitou Messenger
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