For the Bolivian Mennonite women: a lament

Abe Warkentin of Steinbach recently sent a letter to editors of some Mennonite periodicals, expressing his concern about the raped Mennonite women of Bolivia (see more in this post ), which he also copied to me and to Leona Dueck Penner. Leona, a writer friend of mine, has been reading the Magnificat in Luke 1 in preparation to lead worship in her church on December 20 and that text and Abe’s letter, got her going, she said, “mourning the plight of those oh so humble abused women and girls suffering for years from post-traumatic stress after being raped, suffering silently for the most part as such women do, for decades, while we continue to sing harmoniously at MWC.”

The suffering of the women and the sparseness of Abe’s words just wouldn’t leave her mind. It “sort of seemed like a poem to me,” Leona said, “and struck home quite forcefully.” She sat down and lined the words of the letter into a poem.

His words — a letter which is a poem, a poem which is a letter — sing a moving lament no matter which way you read them. Both Abe and Leona have given me permission to share them here.

“The least” among us

Regarding the brief media accounts of the rapes,
hanging and vigilante-style justice in Manitoba Colony,
Bolivia in the last few months:

The silence
from our Mennonite constituency
is deafening

but this ‘thing’ isn’t going to go away.

Those horrific reports out of the Manitoba
and neighboring Las Cruces colonies
can only be interpreted as urgent cries for help.

And in the long run
we will be judged
not on how wonderfully we sang
at Mennonite World Conference
(and I applaud that!)
but on how we treated “the least” among us.

In this decade for certain,
and perhaps far longer than that,
“the least” among us are
the raped women
and girls
of Manitoba Colony.

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