Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian High School

Rachel Leininger is the first-place winner of the MCC Washington Office essay contest.

Rachel Leininger, a senior at Bethany Christian High School in Goshen, Indiana, has won the $750 top prize in the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. Washington Office 2018-19 annual essay contest.

Leininger’s essay, “Communication in Place of Isolation,” calls for the U.S. government to engage with the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea). In addition, she writes, “cultural, academic and artistic exchanges could bring about greater understanding,” citing the examples of Cuba, China, Vietnam and Myanmar.

“With so many decades of hatred and enmity between the U.S. and North Korea,” Leininger says, “the concept of mutually beneficial relations seems nearly impossible to reach. However, openness and eagerness for negotiation presents the first step towards de-escalating the threat of war. With every progression of trust between governments and citizens, these nations can continue… reconciliation across borders.”

Topics in this year’s contest included immigration and gun violence in addition to DPRK.

The second-place prize of $500 went to Isabelle Moore, also a senior at Bethany Christian High School. Moore wrote about gun violence: “In a time when our nation is plagued by violence and death, we must stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ; we must take action and stand together for a safer, more secure nation.”

The third-place winner was Brianne Moore, a senior at The Mount Academy, part of Mount Bruderhof Community in Esopus, New York. Moore’s essay, “No Mere Happenstance: Addressing the Issue of Gun Violence,” won $250. Moore recommended that “Congress pass and enforce unified gun reform legislation” while also encouraging support for programs that equip people to “resolve conflict nonviolently.”

The MCC U.S. Washington Office’s annual contest encourages youth to explore and understand prominent policy issues while reflecting on how their faith engages with advocacy. The contest is open to Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and other Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite-related high schools within the United States and Puerto Rico.

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