Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, was the first speaker in the Horizons of Change series at Eastern Mennonite University during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

Diane Randall, with Friends Committee on National Legislation, champions faith-based political advocacy

The power of faith-based political advocacy was the theme of a lecture by Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), as part of Horizons of Change lecture and meal series at Eastern Mennonite University.

Four lectures remain in the series, which will take place during each of the five sessions of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, an annual program of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).

FCNL’s Annual Spring Lobby Weekend, a four-day conference with training, networking, policy briefings, community and advocacy, is regularly attended by CJP graduate students in the conflict transformation and restorative justice programs.

“We’re fortunate to hear from Diane about her experiences and expertise today,” said CJP Practice Director Amy Knorr, who introduced Randall and has attended several lobby weekends with students. “I especially appreciate her deep lifelong commitment to building a more just and peaceful world and the passion she brings to this work.”

Randall is joined in her Washington D.C. office by several staff, including Theo Sitther MA ‘13, who directs the peacebuilding program.

“The essential work FCNL does is to lobby Congress,” she said. “We are not a think tank though we try to be thoughtful. We are not a research center, though we take other research and use it to lobby. We stay focused on what we do well and partner with others to be most effective.”

FCNL surveys more than 700 Friends Meetings every two years to determine priorities, such as health care, climate change, peacebuilding policy, and mass incarceration, as well as core peace and justice issues.

The lecture and meal series continues through four sessions of Summer Peacebuilding Institute.

“The ability to work with others in coalition is essential,” she said, adding that Quakers have a reputation for “holding neutral space.”

“At our best,” Randall says, “we stay open to how God is moving and how the spirit is moving among us and that means we don’t close off people who may not share different beliefs from us.”

FCNL also trains people to advocate through grass-roots networks. “In some cases, constituents can have a remarkable impact and even change their vote, but it doesn’t happen in one visit. You have to go again and again and bring new allies each time.”

Randall was raised Lutheran but joined the Friends in her thirties, drawn to the core value of non-violence. She began working with FCNL in 2011, initially wrestling with the confluence of the spiritual with the political.

FCNL helps to elevate and amplify “the voices of people who feel called to work with elected officials with clarity and commitment both for what they’re advocating for and for the long term,” she said. “There is a moral hunger… people around the world are longing for a sense of justice. That can mean different things to different people, but we should be having that debate about what that means, instead of about personalities.”

Upcoming Horizons of Change events

May 24 (lunch, 12:30-2:30 p.m.): Jean Claude Nkundwa MA ’14 will be presented with the 2017 CJP Peacebuilder of the Year Award. Nkundwa is executive secretary of Burundi Citizen Synergy, an organization he helped to found to create joint advocacy and communication strategies in Burundi.

May 29 (dinner, 5:30-7:30 p.m.): Benjamin Douglas and Jonathan Kuttab, a leading human rights attorney and peace activist, bring diverse perspectives on Israel-Palestine.

June 7 (dinner, 5:30-7:30 p.m.): Dr. Johonna Turner, assistant professor of restorative Jjustice and Peacebuilding at EMU, speaks on “Leading From Within” when organizing against oppression, repression and violence. How we might draw on our faith journeys and spiritual practices in order to be formed into the leaders we long for?

June 14 (dinner, 5:30-7:30 p.m.): Kai Degner, former Harrisonburg major, speaks about his new project, “The Listening Corps,” in a lecture titled “Listening for Change: Exploring the overemphasis of talking in dialogue programs.”

Tickets are $18 per person. To purchase and reserve your spot, e-mail alison.dsilva@emu.edu or call 540-432-4295 at least 4 days in advance of each meal.