Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach Archive
A first step for criminal justice reform
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 […]
Free speech and economic choices
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 […]
The war goes on
In 2015, Artur’s* family was forced to leave their home in Aleppo, Syria when their home was destroyed. Artur, who requires expensive medications and is unemployed, lives with his elderly parents, wife and two children. The family has received various forms of assistance from Mennonite Central Committee through a partner organization. The war in Syria has shifted into a new phase, focused in Idlib province. As the war winds down in other parts of the country, some have begun to focus on the need for reconstruction. Long-term rebuilding will be necessary for Syria to recover. But for many Syrians, such […]
When children can’t go to school
Before we know it, summer routines will end and children will return to school. But for more than 500,000 Palestinian children throughout the Middle East, schools may not be able to open in the fall. It has been five months since the U.S. announced it would be withholding most of its funding from the U.N. agency that provides services to Palestinian refugees. In addition to operating nearly 700 schools, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) provides food assistance, health care and other services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. It is unclear […]
The right to live
The right to live By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach “We are human beings. We need the right to live,” a Syrian Palestinian family told me when I visited Lebanon several years ago. The family was receiving a food voucher from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) that helped them buy basic items like rice, oil and bread. Unable to work legally in Lebanon, the family depended on a small stipend from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to help pay their rent. But that stipend had been reduced recently due to lack of funds. Now UNRWA faces yet more funding cuts. […]
After ISIS, now what?
After ISIS, now what? By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach Last winter Rafee, his wife and sons received heating fuel through a program supported by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Syria. In 2015, their hometown had been attacked by ISIS, and eventually the family fled to another village. There they struggled to pay for rent and medication, so they were grateful for the fuel assistance provided by the church. Rafee’s last name is withheld for security reasons. Syrians like Rafee long for an end to the conflict that has engulfed their country since 2011. With the next round of negotiations scheduled for […]
Counting calories in Gaza
Counting calories in Gaza By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach October 16 marked World Food Day. In Gaza, a small slice of land home to two million Palestinians, 80 percent of people rely on international humanitarian assistance. Nearly 1 in 2 do not have enough to eat on a regular basis. Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is due primarily to the blockade that has been imposed by Israel. For centuries the residents of Gaza have relied on the sea as a source of food and income. But Israeli restrictions prevent Gazan fishing boats from traveling more than six nautical miles from shore, and often […]
Why oppose a popular airstrike?
Why oppose a popular airstrike? By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach On the night of April 6, the U.S. attacked a Syrian military installation with 59 missiles. President Trump said that the airstrike was in response to a chemical weapons attack a few days earlier in Idlib province. Many members of Congress immediately came out in support of the airstrike, saying it was a proportional response and what the U.S. should have done after a chemical weapons attack in 2013. This favorable response was echoed by many in the media as well. With so many eager to support this show of force, […]
Threat or friend?
By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach As I read through the U.S. president’s executive orders on immigrants and refugees, I was immediately struck by the overall framing: immigrants and refugees are security threats to be feared, not human beings to be welcomed. The order stopping the refugee program opens with the obligation to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks,” although the three-judge panel that halted the order noted that there is no evidence that anyone from “the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” The order on border security says that undocumented immigrants “present […]
O little town of Amona
O little town of Amona By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach At this time of year the hearts and minds of many Christians turn toward the “little town” of Bethlehem. Bethlehem still exists today as a Palestinian city in the West Bank, under Israeli military occupation. But recently the little “town” of Amona has been getting more attention. Amona is an “outpost,” housing about 40 families near the Israeli settlement of Ofra in the West Bank. Amona was started in 1995, with settlers placing three caravans on land taken from private Palestinian landowners. After 20 years of legal wrangling, the outpost still […]