WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. Washington Office awarded Corine Alvarez, a senior at Bethany Christian School in Goshen, Ind., grand prize in its annual essay contest for her essay on international debt relief.
In the essay, “What Would Jesus Do About the International Debt Crisis,” Alvarez addressed the challenges facing developing countries that owe exorbitant sums of money to international financial institutions and Western governments.
“Debt causes governing bodies to focus more on repaying the debt than caring for the people of the countries,” she wrote. Alvarez noted that debt repayment is prioritized over health care, education and job creation. “This dangerous cycle will not be broken unless change is implemented.”
As contest winner, Alvarez will receive a trip to Washington, D.C., which will include a visit to her congressional representative’s office.
Carl Lehmann, a student at Freeman Academy in Freeman, S.D., and Sara Klassen, a senior at Bethany Christian School won honorable mentions. They both will receive an MCC mug and a $20 gift certificate to Ten Thousand Villages.
Lehmann’s essay, “Digging Deeper,” also examined the international debt crisis. He noted that the Jubilee Act, introduced to the U.S. Congress in December 2009, “not only calls for debt relief but also attacks the root of the problem. This bill speaks of shutting down corrupt and irresponsible lending as well as abolishing the strings attached to debt relief. These two things are necessary if debt relief is to be effective.”
Klassen’s essay, entitled “The Plague of Nations: A Historical View of the Global Debt and Resolution Possibilities,” noted the theological roots of debt relief. “The law laid out in Exodus states that every seventh year, the year of Jubilee, the fields should not be worked and all debts must be cancelled… The year of Jubilee and the laws of the Old Testament are insurance to the poor. They represent a necessity to care for the poor and for creation.”
The MCC U.S. Washington Office holds this contest every fall as one way to advance the church’s work for peace and justice and as an encouragement to young people to actively participate in the church’s witness to governing authorities. The contest is open to all Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite high schools.
Essays are judged on the writer’s understanding of the issues, clarity of presentation and creativity in addressing solutions. Portions of the top essays will be reprinted at washingtonmemo.org and in a forthcoming issue of the Washington Memo, the quarterly newsletter of the Washington Office.