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MCC Washington Office seminar focused on uprooted peoples

Cathryn Clinton
May 2, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – On March 2-3, 42 participants gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss the growing need for advocacy and action for people who have had to migrate from their homes, both in the United States and other countries.

The Washington Office of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) organized the seminar, “Uprooted People: Action & Advocacy in the Face of Displacement.” Rachelle Lindaker Schlabach, director of the MCC U.S. Washington Office, said, "This is a hands-on learning experience. It is a chance for people to gain confidence in visiting their representatives and to inform and encourage them to engage the U.S. government on behalf of others."

The event did move beyond presentations as participants visited 12 offices on Capitol Hill after receiving training. Many presented a letter requesting federal support for Gulf Coast residents unable to return home due to the lack of affordable housing.

Gordon Brubacher, former professor of Old Testament and archaeology, Messiah College, set the theological framework. He spoke on the Biblical injunction to love the stranger as yourself.

General workshops included looking at the root causes of migration, an overview of U.S. policy regarding immigration and refugee services and a Congressional perspective given by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.).

Participants could explore specific issues through workshops on the displacement of people in Colombia, Iraq, Sudan and the United States. U.S. issues addressed the displacement of the Gulf Coast evacuees, Native Americans who continue to face challenges due to historical displacement and immigrants to the United States.

Hearing stories from the children of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees who came to the United States highlighted the need for action.

In one workshop, representatives of the North Baltimore (Md.) Mennonite church presented their action plan to reach out to asylum seekers.

The seminar ended with a reflection on the weekend. Participants commented that they were especially moved by the personal stories they heard and left feeling energized to do more advocacy.