Advocacy, Catholics Confront Global Poverty

Hill Visits Urge Support for Peace in Lebanon

I recently accompanied CRS-Lebanon Country Representative, Mindy Burrell, on a number of visits to Members of Congress to discuss the political and humanitarian situation in Lebanon. These Capitol Hill visits are an important part of CRS’ advocacy strategy because they allow us to share our on-the-ground perspective with policymakers who are driving our foreign policy.

Mindy described how she first arrived in Lebanon on a transport plane in the midst of the 2006 conflict with Israel because it was the only one that could land on the damaged runway. In response to the conflict, CRS used $12 million in aid provided by the U.S. government and other donors to assist 250,000 Lebanese victims from all faiths in 200 villages throughout the country. Working with local partners including Caritas-Lebanon, CRS organized vouchers for crops and livestock to restore lost incomes, construction projects for buildings damaged in the war, and summer camps for children traumatized by violence.

Advocacy visit

Doug Norell (left), CRS Director of Legislative Affairs, and Mindy Burrell (right), Country Representative for CRS-Lebanon during a visit to Capitol Hill to update Members of Congress on CRS’ work in Lebanon. Photo by Brendan Cavanagh/CRS

CRS’ work in Lebanon has expanded since the end of the war through a number of projects. One such project trains youth leaders to effectively advocate for positive change. The participants learn how government works and then interact with local authorities to accomplish goals. These newly formed advocates have launched public gardens in their villages, shadowed their local government officials, monitored their municipal budget, and lobbied for funding for a policeman where the village did not have one. CRS also provides comprehensive care to the continuing influx of Iraqi refugees through the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center (CLMC). During home visits, social workers assess families’ health, employment, educational and other needs and then plan with the families to meet those needs. CRS’ other activities consist of building peace at the local level by training ‘consensus teams’ to address local issues and strengthening civil society by helping nongovernmental organizations promote dialogue.

Hill visit

Brendan Cavanagh (left), CRS Grassroots Advocacy, Doug Norell (center), CRS Director of Legislative Affairs, and Mindy Burrell (right), Country Representative for CRS-Lebanon, during visits to Capitol Hill. Photo by CRS staff

Mindy was met with varying degrees of knowledge and interest by Congressional staff. Some Members and their staff had traveled to the region and were highly knowledgeable about the country and regional dynamics while others were simply interested to learn how CRS’ is able to work in communities that are hostile to the United States.

Mindy explained how CRS helps communities address the injustices in their society that cause conflict and how we facilitate respectful relationships between conflicting parties in order to build sustainable peace. Peacebuilding is an essential part of what CRS does because we believe that in order for all of us to have an opportunity to grow and develop fully, a certain social fabric must exist within society. The United States government should support these peace efforts because it is the right thing to do and because it is the only sustainable way to strengthen our national security.

You can help support these peacebuilding efforts in Lebanon and around the world through your own advocacy. Join Catholics Confront Global Poverty today and make a difference in our world.

Brendan Cavanagh, CRS Grassroots Advocacy

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