By Christy Crouse
The vision of “peace in the community, peace among the peoples, peace in the marketplace, and peace with the earth” was explored at the 12th annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) in Washington, D.C. This conference took place March 21-24, and brought together nearly 1,000 Christians from Sri-Lanka to Alaska to learn about the call to peace in our world.
EAD focuses each year on highlighting a certain political subject and honing in on ways to alter governmental policies in order to create a more just society based on the Christian perspective. This year’s EAD concentrated on the theme of peace, primarily on efforts to reduce acquisition and use of guns for purposes that cause harm, and to rebalance funding priorities toward preventing violence and enhancing human security.
EAD was guided by Luke 19:41-42, where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, a capital city that turned from the true way of peace.
The conference consisted of worship, quality speakers, exhibits from sponsoring organizations such as Pax Christi and Bread for the World, numerous policy plenaries and issue workshop sessions, denominational gatherings, and a lobby day on Capitol Hill as the culmination of the event.
Multiple Church of the Brethren members attended including Nathan Hosler and Bryan Hanger from the denomination’s Office of Public Witness, as well as Sarah Ullom-Minnich and I, who were sponsored by the denomination to attend.
Throughout the conference, we were able to choose sessions to attend based on our interests. I attended sessions called “Drones: Remotely Operated Armed Foreign Relations,” “Restorative Justice Lens and Core Practices,” and “Israel/Palestine Negotiations: A Path to Peace?” to name a few. These all vastly increased my knowledge on current US policies and positions relating to fundamental issues in the search for peace within our country and throughout the globe.
On the Saturday evening of EAD, staff from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee, and other attendees from the peace churches gathered together for fellowship and discussion. According to Hosler, the dialogue “raised the question how do we fit into, differ from, and feel about a conference theme that has been historically associated with our groups? The hour-long conversation that ensued was quite valuable.”
For me, and countless others I am sure, this conference was a wonderful opportunity to increase my understanding of current political policies and events, practice both my persuasive speaking and attentive listening skills, and converse with other like-minded individuals from around the world.
Two major ideas I will take away from EAD both deal with voice: the importance of hearing the voice of those you are speaking for, and the necessity of the Christian voice in the politics of today. The former can be applied throughout all scenarios of life, but especially in the political spectrum. It is vital to seek out the preferences and views of those you are speaking on behalf of. A woman for Libya who spoke at EAD brought this idea forth when speaking of the tumultuous situation in her country and how she felt the voice of her people must be heard in order to help mitigate the situation.
The latter idea, the necessity of the Christian voice in politics, was accentuated to me through my experience on Capitol Hill. Seeing over 800 Christians dispersing to advocate peace to their respective legislators was exciting; however, knowing that the view of peace is seldom promoted by other lobbyists who visit the hill every day made me realize how needed the Christian perspective is. In my mind, we were a literal “light on the hill” that day, bringing a needed hope to a part of society that does not always think in terms of the most positive options for humanity.
Ecumenical Advocacy Days opens the eyes of all who attend. The conference is well organized, promotes needed discussion, and provides exemplary tools to learn about relevant issues. I encourage all who have the time and means to consider attending EAD 2015.
-- Christy Crouse is a member of Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren and a freshman at Truman State University. She attended Christian Citizenship Seminar in 2013, and will be a member of the 2014 Youth Peace Travel Team.