Gaining a Global Perspective for Life

Middle East

Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, speaks at Cabrini College about CRS’ work in the Middle East. Photo courtesy of Cabrini College

By Alyssa Mentzer

Three and a half years ago I left home to go college. I can honestly say I knew very little about what was going on in the world. As far as I was concerned, my world revolved around the town I came from and the campus I lived on.

It’s not that I didn’t care about the rest of the world. I really had no idea what was going on around me. The depths of my knowledge remained within the borders of the United States.

Fast forward.

Last week I sat down with Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, who lives in Beruit. Just back from trips to Iraq and Egypt, Mark was on the campus of Cabrini College to talk to students about the situation in Egypt after the recent revolution and the potential consequences of pulling American troops out of Iraq.

While chatting with Mark, my mind was full of thoughts about the struggle of the Egyptians after the Arab Spring and the upcoming struggle Iraqi refugees will face.

It was so interesting to me to meet someone who has lived in the Middle East for over 20 years. His personal accounts and knowledge made it more real to me than just reading a newspaper article.

After the interview I asked Mark if moving to the Middle East was a life-changing decision for him. His response took me completely by surprise.

He instantly responded by saying that the real life-changing decision would be moving back to the United States.

At that moment, it was more apparent to me than ever: my life and this country are only a small part of a huge world.

This is the gift that CRS has given to me and to many of my fellow college students.

Through CRS I have met with people from the Congo, Haiti, Palestine and Iraq. Each of them shared stories that have broadened my understanding of the world.

Their commitment to social justice, global solidarity and maintaining the dignity of all human beings around the world is setting a positive example and sending an empowering message to people like me as we are learning to advocate.

In three and a half years I have learned so much about the world, but like others, I am still learning.

I strongly believe that knowledge is a necessary building block for a better future; because hopefully one day that knowledge will be put into action.

Alyssa Mentzer is a senior at Cabrini College working as a college blogger for CRS.

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