by DJ | July 31, 2012

It was 30 plus years ago that I arrived in Minnesota as young man and some what ambitious student to study at the university of Minnesota. I can say with out hesitation that it was a glorious journey.  During those years, I have met and made great Oromo and American friends among whom Ms. Lois Swanson was the first American I met and admired for her generosity and commitment to assist Oromo immigrants in Minnesota.

Lois Swanson was murdered early June 2012 by some demonic individual(s) in her own home that shared for the past several decades with countless Oromo immigrants who needed a place to stay until they set-up their own lives.

Sunday, July 30, 2012, her Minnesota friends from the Oromo community and American friends celebrated Lois’ life in a memorial service that was held at Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley Minnesota.

When I heard that Lois was killed on June 6, 2012, in the house she shared with our vulnerable new arrivals from refugee camps, from far-away lands, I felt awful and it was heartbreaking news to all of her Oromo and American friends.

Lois was a very brave and intrepid woman who allied with our cause and struggle. She was our comrade! She sympathized with our cause so deeply and in the mid 1980s she dared to trek all the way to Western Oromia and Southern Sudan to assist in the refugee camps ran by OLF. The experience had a huge impact on her and she used to berate us Oromos in Minnesota for our indolent and comfortable lives in America while our people were engaged in a horrific struggle back home!

In the ensuing years, multitude of Oromos arrived in Minnesota and Lois Swenson was first among those who welcomed and smoothed the transition of those who come to this new land that they hardly spoke the language much less understood the culture. With a considerable risk and challenge, Lois and her friends took in people they hardly knew with out thinking of the limitations that they might have encountered.

In retrospect, it was a virtuous and life altering kindness they gave. Most of our Oromo compatriot had come a long way from refugee camps to this land hoping that some one in the community, in the country, will help them from encountering the overwhelming and excessive demands of modern urban life. Lois and Other American friends did their best to assist our people with graceful disposition and refined virtues.

With Oromo refugee boy in Oromia May 1985

As the years passed and our compatriots continued to arrive from all corners of the globe, we rose above our limitations to fit with what was universal among us, Oromumma (Oromoness) to build a proud community that hailed from all corners of Oromia! Lois Swenson as well, transcended her race, religious, cultural heritage and class boundaries of those who came from all localities of Oromia and welcomed them to her home.

It is the memories forged by years of friendship and kindness that Lois bestowed up on all of us that emerges distinctly when we consider her contribution to our shared lives of struggle to raise and expose to the American public the immeasurably profound and dreadful social and material basis, the abysmal political and individual rights of Oromos in the Ethiopian empire.

The total essence of the past 30 some odd years is that people like Lois sacrificed their own private affairs in service to a prudent mission of welcoming to their home those who needed help and at the same time exposing the oppressive nature of Abyssinian colonial rule of the Oromo Nation. For that, we are grateful and honored to pay a tribute to the fallen American-Oromo compatriot Lois Swenson. She lived her life to fit with what is universal: freedom and justice for the Oromo and all other peoples of the Empire. So, in the words of John Donne: No woman is an island, entire of itself, every woman is piece of the continent, a part of the main, any woman’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in humankind, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you Lois Swenson!



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