Syria, five years later
March 15 marks the five year anniversary of the brutal war in Syria. The conflict began with nonviolent protests, asking for democratic reforms and increased rights. But it quickly spiraled into an armed conflict involving the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and others.
More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed. Half of all Syrians have been displaced from their homes. Syria’s economy and infrastructure have been devastated.
The current pause in violence is a welcome reprieve. But it must be extended and expanded, to lay the groundwork for a peace agreement.
After five long years, it is time for peace.
Criminal justice: On February 11, the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a voice vote. The bill is a companion to the more comprehensive Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act in the Senate, and would help returning citizens adapt to life after prison.
Immigration: In April, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case challenging President Obama’s executive action for immigrants (DAPA/DACA). A decision is expected in June. With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the decision could be a 4-4 tie, meaning that the temporary halt to the programs would stand while the case is either sent back to the lower courts or held over until the next term. Read more: English | Spanish
North Korea: The North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act was signed into law by President Obama on February 18. While the act has many facets, it remains to be seen how the new sanctions might impact humanitarian organizations working in North Korea.
April 15-18 Join us here in Washington, D.C. for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, co-sponsored by our office. This year's theme is "Lift Every Voice! Racism, Class, and Power."
May 22-23 Save the date for Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia, "Building peace from the ground up." Worship and advocacy resources for congregations will be coming soon.
A forgotten epidemic (Haiti)
Let the little children come (Immigration)
Seek the common good (Poverty-focused foreign assistance)
Charissa Zehr met with MCC staff and partners from countries across Latin American and the Caribbean in Guatemala from February 29-March 6.
Our staff met with students from the American Studies Program on February 12 and students from Calvin College on March 7.
Tammy Alexander spoke via videoconference with an Immigration Issues class at Eastern Mennonite University on February 23. Invite Tammy to speak with your group!
We enjoyed hosting the Advisory Council of the Peace & Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA on March 3-4. Participants met with their congressional representatives to talk about the Syria crisis and the potential for a new "authorization for the use of military force."
We also hosted Pastor Bruce Bradshaw of the Mennonite Congregation of Boston and Lee Wheeler of Bethel College Mennonite Church, who visited with their members of Congress to advocate for the protection of funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance programs on March 2.