What we want to do for the Mennonite women of Bolivia

Back in November, I wrote, here, about a file I’d opened while I was at the MB Herald but ran out of time to complete, on the sexual assault of numerous women in one of the conservative Mennonite colonies of Bolivia. I’m glad to report  that the story got written, nevertheless — a fine overview by assistant editor Karla Braun which appeared in the January issue. It picks up on what had seemed to Abe Warkentin, founder of Die Mennonitische Post and long-time advocate for the needs of Low German Mennonites, a “deafening” silence in the face of the situation, and his plea that it be more actively addressed.

It’s also evident from the article that there are divergent views about — and approaches to — conservative Mennonite groups by the various people who relate to them. These differences have their own long history, theological underpinnings, and ways of speaking, even “bad blood” between the parties at times, which the article doesn’t get into in any detail. I don’t intend to now either, except to say that these differences have clearly complicated Mennonite response to the story and perhaps accounted for much of the silence around it.

Recently, however, an inter-Mennonite committee formed here in Winnipeg to do one thing. We want to hold a service of prayer and lament for our Mennonite sisters in Bolivia who have been sexually assaulted. We recognize that any response one makes carries a bias and, regardless of diverse views on Old Colony life, this is ours: we want to express our love and compassion for, and solidarity with, these women, and to pray for healing and justice and hope in this situation.

I invite my readers in Manitoba to participate in this event, on February 7, and to let others know about it. Please see the Events page for more details, or the press release that follows from Abe Warkentin. We’re continuing to gather as much information as we can, although, as the release states, new information is difficult to confirm. Continue reading