Wider View Archive

Border walls: A simple fix?

February 22, 2019 Tammy Alexander

By Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office There is general agreement that monitoring the flow of people and goods across the U.S.-Mexico border is a necessary government function. This is especially true when it comes to efforts to restrict the flow of illicit drugs and human trafficking. However, there are disagreements among both policymakers and the public about how best to accomplish this, particularly when it comes to the construction of border walls and fences. Those disagreements are sometimes expressed with extreme language, when those who favor building walls are portrayed as racist and hating immigrants and those who […]

A first step for criminal justice reform

February 8, 2019 Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

After years of work by advocates, including many constituents of Mennonite Central Committee, criminal justice reform legislation was signed into law by President Trump on December 21. The law is called the First Step Act and it is just that—a first step. Additional reforms are still needed to address mass incarceration in the U.S., which disproportionately affects communities of color. But first, what will the new law do? It will reduce a number of mandatory minimum sentences and allow judges more discretion when sentencing individuals. The “three-strike” rule, which imposed a life sentence if someone is convicted of three or […]

A steep climb for asylum seekers

February 1, 2019 Charissa Zehr

“Why don’t people wait their turn? They should just get in line!” These lines are often tossed around in the debates about families and individuals crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The distinction that many make between migrants who enter our country “legally” and those “sneaking in” between ports is a deceptive comparison. Many migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border are seeking asylum, which can be claimed at any entry point—bridge, road, desert or otherwise. Yet border officials in both the U.S. and Mexico have been actively preventing families from seeking protection through asylum and spreading deliberate misinformation. U.S. Customs and Border […]

Peace is not simply words

January 30, 2019 Thirdway

In November, the Ottawa Office was pleased to host Syrian peacemaker S. Laham, (full name withheld for security purposes) formerly with MCC partner Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), for meetings with Canadian policymakers about Syria. Director Anna Vogt spoke with Laham about MECC’s work and his message for Canada. Here is a condensed and edited version of Laham’s reflections.    The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) has been involved in humanitarian work since its establishment in 1974 as a communion of churches in the Middle East. MECC started by supporting Palestinian refugees, then those impacted by civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq, […]

Free speech and economic choices

January 18, 2019 Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

Esther Koontz, a math teacher from First Mennonite in Hutchinson, Kansas, wanted to contract with the state of Kansas to train math teachers. But as a condition of her employment, the state required her to pledge that she does not support economic boycotts against Israel or Israeli settlements. As a matter of conscience Esther refused to sign, and she was denied the contract. The American Civil Liberties Union took Esther’s case to court and in January 2018, a federal judge issued a favorable preliminary ruling, saying that boycotts are a protected form of free speech. The state of Kansas amended […]

Courage is knowing what not to fear

December 22, 2018 Tammy Alexander

A number of migrant caravans made their way from Central America through Mexico this fall. Though these caravans were unusually large, migrants often travel in groups as they are less likely to be victims of violence or other crimes. They left home with only what they could carry on a more than 2,000-mile journey, some with small children in tow. Thousands walked northward, many seeking to escape gang violence, domestic violence and poverty. After weeks of walking and waiting, they were met at the U.S.-Mexico border with armed border guards, razor wire and tear gas. U.S. officials treated their arrival […]

From despair to hope on the shepherd’s field

December 20, 2018 Thirdway

By Leona Lortie  In October I joined an MCC-led learning tour travelling through Palestine and Israel to learn about the conflict and to see the realities on the ground first hand. Our schedule was composed of an interesting mix of visiting MCC partners, travelling through the region to see the differences between occupation and relative freedom, and tourist spots including the holy sites. During one of the mornings, we made our way from Bethlehem to visit the YMCA, an MCC partner, in neighbouring Beit Sahour. The YMCA is fortunate to have offices on one of the shepherd’s fields, a site where […]

DR Congo’s uphill battle for peace

December 6, 2018 Charles Kwuelum

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is at a critical historical moment. That was the conclusion during a recent workshop held by Church of Christ in Congo (known by its French acronym, ECC), which focused on creating teams to prevent electoral violence. Long-expected parliamentary elections, a chance for the first peaceful transfer of power since independence, will be held on December 23. After the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila in 2001, Joseph Kabila became president and has remained in office beyond the country’s two term limit. After much local and international pressure, he has agreed to not run again. […]

Advocacy: Action and reflection, no deportation required

November 29, 2018 Thirdway

I slipped out of the office over lunch for a brief twenty minutes a few weeks ago: down the elevator, out the building, and around the corner, to join a small group standing in front of the building housing the Mexican Embassy. September 26, 2018 marks four years since the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa. A few Canadian human rights groups held a small vigil in their honour and to demand action. At the beginning, I stood on the outskirts. Someone was taking photos. I was not with a partner organization. I was present as myself, not by invitation […]

Reinvigorating trust in the midst of displacement

November 16, 2018 Charles Kwuelum

As the dry season set in, Modibo Ado* migrated from his home in Bauchi State, Nigeria, leading his herds of cows and sheep to neighboring Plateau State. There the grass is still green, and water is available for his livestock. In Plateau State, farmers like Emmanuel Davou* tend their crops and wait to harvest them for food and income. For migratory herdsmen like Ado, growing his herds necessitate a search for vegetation and water. Encroachment into grazing routes for farmers like Davou often become a cause for conflict and violence. Such encounters break down relationships and trust among farming and […]