Peace on the Hill: A Christmas Wish List

TheoBy Theo Sitther

The season of Advent is a period of waiting in anticipation of newness and renewal. This is my favorite time of the year, as I often feel a sense of hope and faith restored during this season. Waiting for and celebrating the birth of Christ brings joy and provides strength for entering into a new year.

Perhaps it was this anticipation that caused Mary to break out into song when she realized that she would give birth to the Christ.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 4:46-47, 52-53)

The people of Israel, living under the occupation of Rome at the time, needed hope for a brighter tomorrow.

In a similar fashion Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) advocacy work in Washington can often seem hopeless and futile in the face of a seemingly dysfunctional political system. One may be led to question the value of advocating to the U.S. government in this context.

But Mary’s song of praise brings us hope and helps us to see ourselves as part of God’s work of restoration and renewal. Hope can often be found in the work of MCC partners in places like Haiti. Many of MCC’s partners continue to work under difficult conditions for lasting peace and justice. And they challenge us to take action and speak to our government to change policies that have negative consequences for their communities.

In Haiti, MCC partners continue work to stop evictions for people living in displacement camps and for long-term housing solutions for the most vulnerable. They call on us to advocate for transparency and accountability of U.S. development efforts in Haiti. Too much money that was pledged in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake has already been wasted and many who lost everything in the disaster are still languishing.

While the song of Mary may bring hope to people who are suffering in Haiti, this hope of Advent must be accompanied by the action of U.S. citizens holding our government accountable, so that our country’s resources can holistically address the needs of the Haitian people.

There is some good news. This month, the House of Representatives passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which would bring some transparency to aid efforts in Haiti. Now the Senate needs to pass this bill as well.

The season of Advent brings hope and joy as we wait for the anticipation in Mary’s song to be fulfilled. This hope is realized, in part, when we respond to God’s call to act to change systems of injustice. Join us this Christmas and in the New Year to take action for peace and justice.

Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting congressional developments and detailing ways the church can continue to be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy.

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