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Harrisonburg: Seminary alum examines intersection of politics, faith

Story by Laura Lehman Amstutz

With the presidential race on many peoples’ minds these days, one Eastern Mennonite Seminary alumna is always thinking about the intersection of politics and Christian faith. Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, a 2006 graduate, is director of Mennonite Central Committee U.S.’s Washington Office.

“The work of MCC’s Washington Office largely grows out of MCC’s work in the U.S. and other countries,” said Lyndaker Schlabach.

“A large part of MCC’s Washington office work is talking to MCC workers around the world to figure out what position we should be advocating for on policy issues,” said Lyndaker Schlabach. “We are trying to get to the root causes of poverty and injustice to which MCC’s relief and development work is responding. It is taking Christ’s call to love our neighbor as we love ourselves into the realm of public policy.”

Lyndaker Schlabach’s work includes monitoring U.S. policy on the Middle East and militarism, keeping in touch with other like-minded organizations in Washington and encouraging and training people to advocate for policy changes with their congresspersons. She also does administrative work for the Washington Office.

“I enjoy much about this work, particularly helping people to make the connection between what is happening in their lives, or the lives of other people, and public policies,” she said.

Lyndaker Schlabach helps people make that connection by holding training sessions for people who would like to talk to Congress about policy issues. She also sends out action alerts via email to let people know when important votes are coming up.

“Before I came to D.C. I saw the U.S. government as a more monolithic structure, but really it’s just a bunch of unique individual interactions,” said Lyndaker Schlabach. “I enjoy getting to know congressional staffers. They are interesting and engaging people, and often they are sympathetic to our views.”

However, it is not easy to advocate for peace in Washington.

“It can be a challenge to ever feel that I am doing enough on the policy issues that I’m working on – Iran, Israel-Palestine and Iraq,” she continued. “They are tough issues to work on in Washington, and yet I know that people’s lives in those countries are directly affected by decisions made in the halls of Congress.”