A recent comment from “Margaret” to an earlier post about reports of sexual assaults of Bolivian Mennonite women reminded me that I promised to provide updates to this story if I received them. What one hears is often anecdotal, and perhaps it will continue to be largely told, or puzzled over, that way — by putting what “Margaret” was told, for example, beside what a source involved with the Casa del Mariposa, a woman’s shelter being built for Bolivian Mennonite women, was told.
The latter account, forwarded me via a letter, said they hear many conflicting stories and “were not sure anymore what is true and what is not.” But, they continued, they do often hear that it [assaults] is still happening. They then recounted that the daughter of one of the imprisoned men, allegedly the ringleader of the group, sought them out to speak with them about their sister who had been gang raped and drugged. The “boys” confessed, but she is now “not herself” and in need of professional help, which the Casa del Mariposa workers are seeking to arrange for her at a mental health facility in Paraguay.
But, I was also forwarded a report written by Jack Heppner of Steinbach, who recently spent 8 weeks in Bolivia. He worked in Bolivia with the EMMC (Evangelical Mennonite Missions Conference) for three years in the mid-1970s and one year in 1991-92. Heppner was a public school teacher, also taught at Steinbach Bible College for some 15 years, then was conference pastor for the EMMC and editor of their monthly magazine, The Recorder. Upon his return from the visit to Bolivia, he wrote the following report of his observations and conversations relevant to this subject. It includes an analysis within the historical context of Mennonite life, answers to questions many of us at a distance have, and some helpful suggestions for steps forward.
Heppner said he considers it “an open document which I have offered back to the Mennonite church and its various agencies as one voice among many related to the tragedies unfolding in South America.” He has given me permission to post it here. Your comments are welcome. If you wish to dialogue with him individually, you can contact me (see info at About) and I will forward the request.
It’s a fairly lengthy document, but credible and helpful, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in knowing more about this issue.