Connecting at Christian Citizenship Seminar 2024 – News

By Joan Huston

Making connections is one of the joys of my life, and the Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS), held April 11-16 in Washington, DC, was a place to make these connections.

For example, one Monday morning in the Eisenhower Building we had brief conversations with a Church of the Brethren minister who jogged past our group; with “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg, now Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg, who was greeted by a CCS member from Indiana; and with a former German Minister of the Environment, identified by Brethren Volunteer Service worker from Germany, Cornelius Raff, who works in our Peacebuilding and Policy Office.

Those connections were pure joy! However, the places where faith and politics meet, if not connect, are not merely something. They are complicated and frustrating and require work, prayer and time. Yet faith and politics were the essence of CCS.

Nate Hosler, director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, and Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, guided our learning about immigration. Session leaders, articulate and caring, were part of local, national, and international faith organizations that worked with immigrants. We heard reports about what immigrants face at the U.S. border and in cities like DC, where many drive. We also heard from Church leaders in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Participants in this year’s CCS pose for a photo in one of their senators’ offices during an advocacy visit. Photo courtesy of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office

We learned why people are fleeing their homes: poverty, violence, persecution and food shortages – which are likely to be exacerbated by climate change. We also took time to pray and reflect.

One goal of the five days of learning was for the youth to then talk to their congressional representatives and senators (or their staff) about the immigration issue from the Brothers’ perspective. I joined two young people and a BVSer to meet with staff from both Pennsylvania Senate offices. (We were unable to get appointments with any of our representatives.) It was interesting and inspiring to see how the young people took the lead in the conversations and to hear how the staff encouraged them to continue to care and talk about issues.

As the oldest of our group, and someone who spent time in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico during the Contra War of the 1980s, I wanted to talk about the ways in which our country encourages immigration. I advocated a ban on weapons and ammunition that are illegally transported from our country, weapons that give gangs and members of drug cartels more power than the police. For example, did you know that Haiti does not produce weapons within its borders? All their weapons are imported from other places.

This year was my first attendance at CCS and yes, I would attend another and encourage others to do the same. It is difficult for counselors and busy youth to withdraw from spring sports and music activities and classes, but the many ways to learn about topics that CCS offers made the sacrifice worth it. We listened to experts, but also visited a professional theater production. We worshiped with the first African American Episcopal congregation in the DC area, whose history is closely tied to our country’s Great Migration. We visited exhibitions in national museums and did role play. All these activities have enriched our understanding of immigration and asylum!

Our scriptures repeatedly call us to see immigrants as fellow human beings. Jesus said that welcoming the stranger welcomes him, and is a standard by which nations will be judged. I appreciated the opportunity to advocate with others from such a solid foundation of faith.

– The next Christian Citizenship Seminar will take place in the spring of 2025. CCS is open to high school students, college freshmen, and young adults of the same age and their adult advisors. This is an educational seminar and must count as a legitimate absence for students. For more information, visit www.brethren.org/ccs.

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