Essay contest winner explores ways to address global hunger

March 28, 2014
Adam Krahn, a senior at Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen, Ind., earned grand prize for his essay on global hunger in the MCC U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Schools)

Adam Krahn, a senior at Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen, Ind., earned grand prize for his essay on global hunger in the MCC U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Schools)

Adam Krahn, a senior at Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen, Ind., has earned grand prize for his essay on global hunger in the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest.

In his essay entitled “Effectively easing global hunger,” Krahn analyzed the administration and effectiveness of U.S. international food aid. Krahn also described the role of nongovernmental organizations in eliminating global hunger and called for increased support of economic development and peacebuilding abroad.

Referring to the difficulty in reforming food aid in ways that benefit local economies rather than U.S. corporations, Krahn wrote, “As a nation, it seems our allegiance to capitalism trumped our better judgment. … U.S. food aid does help a large number of people avoid starvation. … But a supplementary program should be created to cover its shortfalls. … More specifically, the program would use funds raised in the U.S. to not only feed the hungry, but strengthen local economies and promote agricultural growth through local food purchases and education programs for farmers.”

Krahn’s home congregation is Yellow Creek Mennonite Church, Goshen.

In addition to the grand prize, national honorable mention prizes were awarded to Gabriel Eisenbeis of Freeman (S.D.) Academy, and Katie Hurst and Kinza Yoder, both of Bethany Christian Schools. Eisenbeis examined the topic of global hunger, Hurst focused on creating justice for the people of Haiti and Yoder wrote about addressing mass incarceration in the U.S. through the lens of restorative justice.

The essay contest highlights the perspectives of youth on significant public policy issues and promotes the involvement of young people in faithful witness to government authorities.

The annual contest is open to Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite high schools. Entries are judged on the participants’ understanding of the issues, clarity of argument and degree of creativity in crafting thoughtful policy positions. Grand prize is $300, and honorable mention winners each receive $100.


¡Adelante! Peace with Justice for all Colombians

March 12, 2014

worshippacket-img“I only ask God that he keep bitterness and revenge far from my heart and that he fill me with the wisdom to confront and endure this nameless torture. God will help me forgive those who have made me suffer… Only he who is strong enough to forgive an offense knows how to love.”

These are powerful words from Colombian community leader Jorge Montes who writes from his maximum security prison where he is being held due to false accusations of guerilla connections. He is one of many who have shared prayers, reflections, and hopes for Colombia in the worship packet for Days of Prayer and Action (DOPA) 2014.

These worship materials invite us to learn about the experiences of Colombians and MCC workers there, to hear their prayers, and to pray with them on April 6th.

The included prayer of confession expresses our complicity in the conflict in Colombia and our responsibility to act saying, “we confess that for too long we in North America have stood complacently by, unaware of the situation, and in our silence, giving implicit support to government policies that have prolonged the war.”

This year’s theme is “¡Adelante! Peace with Justice for ALL Colombians”. It reflects the need to call for peace with justice for ALL Colombians in the peace talks, not just the government and the guerillas.

¡Adelante! is a Spanish word that means “forward”. It was chosen because it symbolizes the imperative need to keep the peace talks moving forward towards peace and justice.

Jhon Henry Camargo Varela, a Colombian Christian Peacemaker Team staff, reflects saying, “I invite all of you to sing, to pray, to preach and to act in a way that protects the community processes in our country. I invite you to recognize the struggles taking place in our territory and to hold our hope in your minds. Peace is not something that falls from heaven, but something that we all construct together.”

We too invite your church to join with our sisters and brothers in Colombia in an event that dedicates your prayers, thoughts, and actions to this situation, so that soon, all Colombians may experience God’s shalom.

To access the new worship packet and register your church, visit http://washington.mcc.org/days.


Colombia – Release of Newest Prophetic Call Report

March 4, 2014

The Research and Advocacy program of JUSTAPAImageZ [the Christian Center for Justice, Peace, and Nonviolent Action] and CEDECOL [the Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council of Colombia] have just released the eighth edition of A Prophetic Call, an annual report that documents human rights violations against Protestant and evangelical church members, leaders and pastors in Colombia. This report brings to life and provides a record and analysis of the abuses that Colombians within the church face due to the ongoing armed conflict in the country.

This year’s report summarizing violations for 2012 includes 42 cases mostly involving displacements and threats, being conducted by neo-paramilitary and by FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] the largest guerrilla group in the country. These stories are collected by trained regional teams, and then categorized and entered into a central database, where they can be subjected to statistical analysis. The research and advocacy program that documents these stories also runs peacebuilding training for churches, spiritual accompaniment for victims, legal aid, and political advocacy.

A Prophetic Call provides a national contextual analysis of Colombia, the cases documented, as well as a quantitative analysis of the demographics of victims, their locations, the identity of the perpetrators, and the most frequent types of violations. The report shares formal statements, experiences, and peacebuilding proposals from Protestant and evangelical churches.

Finally, the report recommends a number of action points. This year’s recommendations include:

  • That the Colombian government give priority to social programs and reduce military spending
  • That the United States government continue to redirect military aid towards socio-economic aid and peace initiatives
  • That new anti-narcotics policies be adopted that reduce coercive strategies in favor of a renewed focus on addiction, demand for drugs, and arms trafficking
  • That new methods be developed for comprehensive protection that include nonviolent strategies

It is important to share these stories that are being recorded and shed light on our brothers and sisters sufferings. As the report explains, “Historical memory has been a key element in helping Christians to better understand their faith and social responsibilities as bearers of hope.”

Read the Full Report Here.

Take action for peace in Colombia and participate in the Days of Prayer and Action.


A call for justice in Haiti

February 25, 2014

Theo Sitther reflects on Haiti’s history in the latest Third Way Cafe.

Haiti faces a deeply rooted problem, which pre-dates the 2010 earthquake, of systemic economic injustice and inequality. Decades of economic policies, largely imposed by the international community, have crippled Haiti’s ability to build a society that thrives and prospers.

Read the article here.


Houses Passes Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013

December 18, 2013

This year, the MCC Washington Office has asked for your support in urging Congress to pass the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act.” This legislation would help increase transparency and accountability of U.S. aid efforts in Haiti by requiring Congress to receive comprehensive updates from the State Department on how the funds are being spent. These updates and reports will give Congress more thorough oversight to the disaster reconstruction process.

On December 12, the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” (H.R. 3509) passed the House. This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and is similar to previous legislation on aid transparency in Haiti.

“The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti by ensuring that relief and reconstruction funds are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact. We need to make certain that the people of Haiti are on the road to recovery and not forgotten,” said Congresswoman Lee prior to the passing of the bill.

Thank you to everyone who contacted their Representative and urged them to support the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. The bill now moves to the Senate.


We can’t forget Haiti

November 14, 2013

Read about Haiti in the latest Mennonite World Review by Theo Sitther. Learn more about changes needed within U.S. aid efforts in Haiti to truly work alongside and empower the people there.

MCC’s partners in Haiti call for a development approach that prioritizes the most vulnerable and holistically addresses the population’s needs. For example, the 300,000 people living in tents deserve to have one of their most basic human needs — dignified housing — met. More resources should be devoted to such needs.

The U.S. and other international actors in Haiti should be more transparent and consultative with Haitian civil society when carrying out development projects. When Haitians themselves are in control and at the center of the rebuilding process, U.S. aid efforts will be far more effective.

 


Human Rights Commission Hearing on Colombia

October 25, 2013

On October 24th, 2013, Representatives James McGovern and Frank Wolf co-chaired a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on Colombia. The hearing focused on several topics, including the issues of labor rights and victims’ rights in the context of the on-going peace process happening in Colombia. Several expert panelists spoke on these topics and discussed both the successes and the work that needs to be done when it comes to addressing human rights violations in Colombia.

Tom Lantos Human Rights CommissionThe evidence and research presented by these panelists is very clear on the point that human rights violations are being committed against Colombians, who often have little support in receiving the justice they deserve.  For instance, despite the Colombian government creating the “Law on Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution”, only 1% of the 5.8 million Colombians registered under the law have had their cases reviewed an been able to return to their homes. The “Labor Action Plan“, an agreement between the United States and Colombia that protects workers’ rights, has been largely ineffective due to lack of enforcement and workers continue to be deprived of their rights and have their leaders threatened. There is hope, however, that the peace process will help bring justice to these victims.

Many panelists called for the United States to support the peace process, and emphasized that the United States was in a position to help the process by making their support clear to the Colombian military. By transitioning the majority of its aid money from military aid to social and development aid, the United States would send a clear statement that the U.S. is willing to support Colombia as they transition from war to peace.

Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy, Washington Office on Latin America identified two additional areas in which a change in U.S. policy would help show support for the peace process in Colombia.

  1. The U.S. should speak more frequently and publicly about its support of the peace process.
  2. The U.S. needs to be willing to change its drug policy, as Colombia’s drug policies could change as a result of the peace process.

These recommendations call for a major shift in mentality on the part of the United States government, but that shift is necessary if the U.S. wants to play a positive role in Colombia as that country transitions from civil war to peace. Following the hearing, on Tuesday, October 29th, Representative James McGovern and Representative George Miller published a report about the failures of the Labor Action Plan in Colombia, recommending changes to the LAP’s implementation that will hopefully make it more effective and provide real security to Colombian workers. It is these kinds of changes that will need to be made on the part of the United States if they  want to help make all the difference to the peace process.

Read more information about the hearing here.


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