I worked in the MCC Washington Office from 1995 to 2005. The Congressional office visits we made for the Jubilee 2000 Campaign were especially gratifying. Initially Congress was hostile to the idea of cancelling the international debts of low-income countries.
But the Campaign-inspired grassroots mobilization across the U.S. changed that. For example, I asked a staff aide of a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania if he had received many letters from Mennonites about Jubilee 2000. He waved his hand in dismay and vigorously nodded his head saying, “we have plenty of letters; don’t need any more letters. We’re on board!”
Within a relatively short time many wealthy countries united to implement this debt relief and Congress appropriated funding for cancelling the debts owed to the U.S. Uganda was the first country to have its debts cancelled, and the Jubilee 2000 U.S. coalition brought the coordinator of Jubilee 2000 Uganda to the U.S. to talk to churches around the country about its impact. The Uganda coordinator said to us, “I want you to understand what your work has accomplished. Because of Jubilee 2000 there are now medical clinics with doctors and medicines, and schools with teachers and text books. There are children alive today because of what you’ve done.”
This was really the result of people of faith across the U.S. and the world speaking out. We’ve seen important similar successes since then, most recently on preserving the Affordable Care Act. And there is much more work to do, including protecting Dreamers and achieving humane immigration reform. The efforts of MCC’s Washington Office has a critical impact on policy makers because of the dedicated work of MCC staff, but even more because Mennonites and other people of faith are motivated to raise their voices on behalf of neighbors in need.
Martin Shupack worked in the MCC Washington Office from 1995 to 2005.
Photo: From left, June Mears Driedger, Suzanne Southard, Harold Nussbaum, Marty Shupack and Mel Schmidt apportion pennies according to federal budget priorities in a seminar held in Washington in April 1997.