Rachel Leininger and Isabelle Moore have won the top two prizes in a national public policy essay contest held annually by Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office (see official release). Additionally, eight Bethany students were national finalists: Cedric Brenneman, Caroline Cartmel, Jonah Farran, Sarah Hochstetler, Carissa Mast, Aiden Schloneger, Alistair Tollar, Christian Yoder

In this year’s contest, contestants could choose from topics of immigration, gun violence, and North Korea.

Leininger’s essay, “Communication in Place of Isolation,” calls for the U.S. government to engage with the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea). In addition, she writes, “cultural, academic and artistic exchanges could bring about greater understanding,” citing the examples of Cuba, China, Vietnam and Myanmar.

“With so many decades of hatred and enmity between the U.S. and North Korea,” Leininger says, “the concept of mutually beneficial relations seems nearly impossible to reach. However, openness and eagerness for negotiation presents the first step towards de-escalating the threat of war. With every progression of trust between governments and citizens, these nations can continue… reconciliation across borders.”

Moore wrote about gun violence: “In a time when our nation is plagued by violence and death, we must stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ; we must take action and stand together for a safer, more secure nation.”

The MCC U.S. Washington Office’s annual contest encourages youth to explore and understand prominent policy issues while reflecting on how their faith engages with advocacy. The contest is open to Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite high schools.