Mennonites

ramonmercado

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Book: Horse-And-Buggy Mennonites Thrive

Saturday August 26, 2006 8:01 PM


AP Photo PARK102

By MARTHA RAFFAELE

Associated Press Writer

MARTINDALE, Pa. (AP) - In this bucolic corner of Lancaster County, Allen Hoover can use some modern conveniences approved by his church to help make his machine shop run smoothly: a telephone, a word processor and even a fax machine. But if Hoover needs to travel, driving a car is out of the question. His only options are hopping on a bicycle or hitching a horse to a black buggy.

Hoover, 45, belongs to the Wenger Mennonites, formed nearly 70 years ago by a schism among the county's Old Order Mennonites - whose simple, agrarian lifestyle is similar to the Amish in several ways - over whether to embrace automobiles. As ``horse-and-buggy'' Mennonites, the Wengers consider limited mobility essential to preserving a community in which church and family life are tightly interwoven.

``It's a culture of the old way of doing things,'' Hoover said. ``This whole culture of families working together, communities working together as a unit, would be in danger of disappearing if we would have the means of transportation.''

Bolstered by a steadfast resistance to assimilation with the outside world, the Wengers have experienced remarkable growth since their formation in 1927, according to ``Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World,'' the first scholarly study of the community.

The original community of 1,000 adults and children has grown to nearly 18,000 people living in nine states, including New York. Although they are vastly outnumbered by the nation's Amish population of around 200,000, the Wengers are growing at a faster rate, with their numbers doubling every 19 years, said Donald B. Kraybill, a sociologist of Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown College and a co-author of the Pennsylvania State University Press book.

``There are dozens and dozens of books on the Old Order Amish,'' Kraybill said. ``What to me was curious is that this is a very significant Old Older group that's growing and is growing more rapidly than the Amish ... but has never been studied.''

Both the Amish and Mennonite religions are rooted in a 16th century movement known as Anabaptism, which called for adults to be baptized before joining the church. The Mennonites took their name from Menno Simons, a Dutch Catholic priest who broke away from his church in 1536.

Kraybill and James P. Hurd, an anthropologist at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., spent more than a decade interviewing Wenger Mennonites, poring through source documents detailing church customs, and gathering population statistics.

A key finding was that the Wengers have high birth rates, about eight children per family, and 90 percent of the community's children become full church members through adult baptism at around 18 years old.

``My assumption was ... that it's a small group that's going to die out pretty fast,'' Hurd said. ``I found quite the opposite.''

Wenger Mennonites were originally part of an Old Order branch that split from the more progressive Lancaster Conference in 1893 over issues such as the introduction of Sunday school and the use of English during church services, instead of the German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch.

In 1927, the Old Order would split almost exactly in half over the automobile. The opponents, who argued that accepting cars would fragment the community, became Wengers, led by bishop Joseph Wenger.

The core population of Wengers in Pennsylvania is concentrated around Martindale, an unincorporated village about 10 miles northeast of Lancaster. But over time, the population spread to other states as Lancaster County's farmland became more scarce and more expensive for young married couples starting families.

By comparison, the Amish have adapted by staying in the county, but shifting their focus from farming to small business, said Ben Martin, a bishop who oversees five of the county's 10 Wenger churches.

Martin suspects this is because the Wenger Mennonites are permitted to use tractors with steel wheels for farming, while the Amish are limited to using equipment driven by horses or mules.

``There's a higher percentage of farming in our group than the Old Older Amish,'' Martin said. ``Usually the acreage is bigger on a farm in another state ... and since (the Amish) have to plow everything with mules or horses it handicaps them a little more.''

Ivan Martin, who is not related to the bishop, is among the Wengers who have found homes in out-of-state settlements. Martin, 52, moved with his wife to Penn Yan in New York's Finger Lakes region in 1977; they were the 25th family to arrive.

``Being young, it merely looked like an adventure to me,'' said Martin, who owns a wood shop. ``It seemed as through the land was more affordable and available up here.''

The influx of Wengers and other Mennonites has helped rejuvenate the area's farming economy, said Judson Reid of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Yates County. For example, the number of dairy farms has more than doubled in the county over the past 20 years, bucking a declining statewide trend, he said.

``It used to be that you would see a lot of sagging barns, weeded lots, weeds overtaking buildings,'' Reid said. ``Today, you have a bucolic, manicured bread basket.''

Though Martin is far from where he grew up, he credits the Wenger church's centralized structure with keeping the larger community together and enabling it to thrive across state lines. All congregations must follow the same rules, no matter where they are based.

``Having a culture such as ours is conducive to family and community,'' he said. ``Cars seem to, I think, spread families around. That means you end up in different communities with difference church choices, and less of the guiding principles of home.''


http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/s ... 63,00.html
 

escargot

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the Wengers consider limited mobility essential to preserving a community in which church and family life are tightly interwoven.

``It's a culture of the old way of doing things,'' Hoover said. ``This whole culture of families working together, communities working together as a unit, would be in danger of disappearing if we would have the means of transportation.''
That sounds like unlawful imprisonment to me. :(

The Mennonites were pioneers of restorative justice and their communities seem stable and hardworking. Having 8 children per family though does go against modern trends: families are getting smaller in all industrialised countries, mainly, it is believed, because of the increased desire of women to do something other than breed.

So why are Mennonite women having 8 children each? Could it be that they have no choice?

*cracks buggy whip*
 

ramonmercado

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There are Mennonite communities who are more advanced in their views. They get involved in human rights work, often travelling to other countries.
 

PeniG

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It is believed by whom?

Since all generalizations are false and most family decisions are made at the family level (I started to say "all," but the governments of more than one country, including my own, interfere at a wide variety of levels), explanations for family size must necessarily fall into the categories of "hypothesis" or "explanatory fable" until they are tested. Good luck testing!

One plausible semi-testable theory is that family size goes up and down based primarily on economic factors. In a service/industrial society with child labor laws, a large family is a drain on family resources; in an agricultural society with plenty of chores appropriate for children, it is an economic asset in the form of free labor.

It may also be that family A will have different expectations for their children than family B - if you want all your children to be wealthy professionals, you have fewer children in order to maximize your ability to send them to the appropriate schools. If you expect your children to be working class (and many working class people scorn professionals and the wealthy and would be embarrassed to have anything as upscale as a lawyer in the family), you can invest a lot less in their education and a lot more in sheer quantity of gene type. I've known a number of women who actively wanted families that seemed to me ridiculous in size.

Some families have a kind of sacrifice child, or "goat," who is defined as in some way not worth the resources necessary to assist them to improve their situation; these resources may then be divided equally among the "good" children or unabashedly piled onto a "golden child," so that one member of the new generation is pushed ahead of the family curve. If you accused the parents of loving the "Goat" less and the "Golden Child" more they'd be shocked and offended. An affluent family may pour astonishing resources that could be better spent into a child who in a poor family would be the goat, not only educating but rescuing him from his own folly. It won't take you long to invent other permutations on this theme from your own experience and observation - the "good child" left to fend for himself because he can do it while the "bad child" receives extra investment to compensate, etc. Which permutations are available to you depend on your family size.

Also, a farm woman who has eight children and no labor saving devices does do a lot besides "just breed." Farm women traditionally were economic powerhouses on the American family farm, generating and (sometimes by connivance and sometimes with their husbands' cooperation) often controlling a steady source of income in the form of butter-and-egg money, and contributing economically by producing goods such as clothing.

Just because Mennonites are an identifiable subgroup doesn't mean they all live in that subgroup for the same reasons or in precisely the same way. Wife A may be an oppressed drudge, Wife B may be a brainwashed fool, and Wife C may be queen of the roost and happy as the day is long. The car restriction in one family may be welcomed as a way to keep the children under the parental wing, but in another family the aim may be to enable the warm togetherness which so many modern people complain of lacking; and a Mennonite family that produces an obvious talent may cooperate with the child, or even pressure her, to find a way gain mobility out of the group and toward self-actualization. A family may well split among those positions.

The point is that you don't know, and neither do I, what all goes on in the Mennonite decision-making process; and the people making the decisions are unlikely to be fully aware, either. How many of our own decisions can we actually tack down well? Nor is there such a thing as a uniform culture, however hard we try to make one.
 

escargot

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Yup, I know. The 'closed' version of Mennonite society is a minority.

I really despise any form of religious fundamentalism/indoctrination though! We should be free to walk away from our god and our faith and return freely. Otherwise it's not our choice and religion becomes just another form of control. Restricting parishoners' mobility certainly smacks of that.

I also suspect that a society which expects its women to produce an average of 8 children is likely to have strict ideas of what constitutes correct female behaviour. Freedom of movement doesn't exactly fit into that picture. ;)
 

escargot

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My, Peni, don't you have a lot of time on your hands?
 

misterwibble

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PeniG said:
all generalizations are false



many working class people scorn professionals and the wealthy and would be embarrassed to have anything as upscale as a lawyer in the
Pot:kettle, kettle:pot.
 

escargot

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:lol:

I did a dissertation on an aspect of fertility last year so I do have a faint inkling of what I'm talking about. ;)

For example, it is a fairly well established fact that where women have more say in family planning, families are smaller. Where they have little say, families are bigger.

Of course, if women spend more time lecturing strangers on internet and less time breeding, we'll never solve the G8's longterm labour shortage problems.
 

hedgewizard1

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Mennonite communities vary immensely. There are some in Kentucky that embrace technology. For example, they not only use tractors, but they have them upgraded, sometimes to point that the tractor can easily do 40 MPH on the road. In adition to farming, they do a lot of construction.

My understanding (from the Mennonites and Amish I've known, and the writings of Gene Logsdon) is that each community or congregation decides what technology is acceptable for them.


As for the book's central idea, that the horse and buggy folks are thriving, I can only suggest Living at Nature's Pace: Farming and the American Dream and The Contrary Farmer both by Gene Logsdon. His essays concerning the Amish in his area of Ohio makes it clear that bigger is not always better, that high tech isn't always the answer, and that low tech isn't necessarily primitive or backwards.


Since the article is from the Guardian, we can also be assured that they selected the most sensational parts to play up. Gotta watch those sources.
 

Kondoru

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So if you are saying car owners are liberated, and carless non liberated, where does that leave those who cannot afford them?

(says she who loves cars, is exaperated that so much of her resources goes into them, and would love to have a car as a toy and not a neccesity.)
 

escargot

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Cars? I thought we were still on about tractors.
 

hedgewizard1

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It isn't a question of being able to afford a car or a tractor.

The question is whether accepting the technology into the community will have a positive or a negative influence. From what I've seen, the chief concern is that a farmer able to farm more land will do so, to the detriment of himself and his neighbors.

Understand that the Amish (which I'm more familiar with) work at a slower pace, but with much more enjoyment of the work. Unlike the "English" (that's us non-Amish folks), Amish farms tend to be family operations, with everyone pitching it. So instead of one person riding a tractor all day through the fields, plowing, seeding, fertlizing, etc, the work is done by a group, with a fair amount of conversation and discussion. It makes for a closer family and community, and much more pleasant work.

Many of the Ohio Amish have a second business on their farm, usually related to maintaining or building horse-drawn equpiment. In the last 20 years or so, horse and mules have become very popular with small farmers. They're less damaging to the environment, their by-products are a positive benefit, and the horses are self- replicating.

The most financially successful farm in the US are small ones. A few acres devoted to high dollar specialty crops (organic produce, specialty produce) will out-perform any large grain or livestock operation on a dollar/per acre basis. Most big farms are money sinks, supported by govt subsidies.

My point is, despite what someone from the urban areas might think, horse drawn equipment makes perfect sense.
 

Kondoru

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Its quite the other way round in this country.

big farms thrive, small ones are absorbed.
 

hedgewizard1

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Here in the US, the bigger farms aren't making it. A properly run small farm(less than 5 acres), especially one within a couple hours of a urban center, can gross $100,000 per acre each year.

This is not your typical monocrop farming, but a fairly intensive rotational system. On the other hand, anyone who can reliably deliver quality produce has a seller's market. City Farm in Chicago is selling their produce to various up scale restauaqnts (Fronter Grill, Scoozi!, The Ritz-Carlton Dining Room). Each City Farm acre produces $60,000-70,000 a year.
 

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Mexico's rural Mennonites feel impact of drug violence
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8369200.stm

By Kate Joynes-Burgess
Chihuahua state, Mexico

Mexico's rampant drug-related violence is making headlines, with thousands of deaths linked to the turf wars this year. But while the focus is on urban centres like Ciudad Juarez, rural communities have also felt the effects first hand.
Abraham Peters
Abraham Peters is increasingly worried for his family's future

"They have murdered Mennonite people… the drug-traffickers," says Abraham Peters, a 66-year-old retired rancher, who hails from the Protestant Mennonite sect in the agricultural heartland of Chihuahua state.

Their parents and grandparents came to Mexico in the 1920s from Canada after being promised religious freedom in return for resurrecting farmland devastated during the Mexican revolution.

Mr Peters' community is one of many caught in the crossfire as the federal government cracks down on the illegal drug trade.

Despite the comfort provided by his religion, he admits feeling increasingly "unsettled" about his family's safety. "Years ago you never heard about executions," he ponders and tails off.

Few members of his Church are talking about moving to Mennonite settlements in Belize and Paraguay as a result of the violence in Mexico, but the community is clearly concerned.

The strain shows momentarily as Mr Peters rubs his forehead before pointedly adjusting his tall, cream cowboy hat, part of the trademark attire of Mennonite men that is a visual sign of the community's commitment to preserve its traditions.

His dark blue dungarees, originally inspired by the uniforms of Mexican railway workers observed on that momentous journey down from Canada, bear a large pocket at the front.

From it he pulls out a map and points to the place where drug gangs reportedly killed a Mennonite man in Cuauhtemoc and another, closer to home, in the farming corridor outside the city's commercial hub earlier this year.

Putting down roots

Mr Peters looks wistfully upon his immaculate yet modest family home, flanked by waving cornfields. For him, this farmhouse, within the largest cluster of Mennonite colonies in Mexico, is more than bricks and mortar.

It is the only home he has ever known, where he has worked the land and raised cattle since boyhood.
Abraham Peters' parents
Abraham Peters' parents moved to Mexico in the 1920s

Built by his father, Isidro - a first generation Mennonite migrant from Canada's Saskatchewan province - the house is also Mr Peters' birthplace, where he still lives with wife, Catarina, and Maria, the youngest of their eight children.

All speak the Low German or Plautdietsch language of their forebears, and only the men learn Spanish.

Two of his sons have taken over the family farming business in Cuauhtemoc, where they are already training up the next generation. Others have purchased agricultural land in Mennonite settlements in the north of Chihuahua.

Putting down roots is rare in Mennonite history, which has been punctuated by periodic mass migration.

Originating in the Netherlands, these followers of 16th Century Anabaptist Menno Simons, a radical Protestant reformer, relocated to Russia in the 1770s and then to Canada in the late 19th Century.

They fled persecution for their refusal to participate in military action or swap their Germanic dialect for the host language.

A 7,000-strong community moved to Mexico between 1922 and 1927 after negotiating temporary fiscal benefits, autonomy over education in their mother tongue and exemption from military service.

Economic success

Since then their numbers have swelled to some 60,000 in Chihuahua's 25 Mennonite colonies, while smaller settlements are found in Durango, Campeche, Zacatecas and Tamaulipas.

Unlike fellow Anabaptists the Pennsylvania Amish, Mexican Mennonites have steadily modernised agricultural techniques in response to the harsh realities of their environment, where drought is a regular threat.
Cheese production in Chihuahua state, Mexico
Mexican Mennonites dominate local cheese production

Authorities estimate Mennonite farmers account for at least 60% of the state's agricultural produce, supplying staples such as corn and beans. Nicknamed "vendequesos" or "cheese-sellers," Mennonites make 80% of the region's cheese and some 70% of its dairy produce.

Since Mexico's financial crisis of 1994, they have invested collectively in an exclusive credit union where only Mennonite shareholders are permitted. By safeguarding access to credit, the community has managed to partially insulate itself from the global financial crisis. Good harvests in 2008 and 2009 have also helped.

But these economic achievements have attracted the attention of organised criminal gangs, putting Mennonites at risk of armed robbery, kidnap and extortion.

Katharine Rempenning, director of the state government's Mennonite Outreach Programme, dismissed talk of any mass exodus over fear of violent crime, but admitted some members of the community "were thinking of leaving Mexico".

Crime prevention

Chihuahua's minority Christian groups are still reeling from the 7 July murder of Mormon anti-crime activist Benjamin LeBaron, and his neighbour Luis Widmar.

We don't know what future awaits us - only God knows
Abraham Peters

Mr LeBaron rose to prominence after his own brother was abducted in May this year. Mennonite groups joined Mr LeBaron's peaceful protests against a wave of kidnappings affecting both communities.

Ms Rempenning, a Mennonite of Russian extraction, is concerned that her community's culture of being "open to others" makes members more vulnerable to becoming victims of crime.

Giving advice on crime prevention - "most importantly, kidnapping" - is a priority for her department, which has an annual budget of 500,000 pesos (US $38,258).

Meanwhile, Mr Peters suggests some threats to Mennonite values are coming from within.

"There are Mennonites involved in the drug [trade]… in distribution," he alleges.

Uncertain future

While Cuauhtemoc is one of Mexico's fastest growing urban centres, there is also sense of abandonment.

Mr Peters, who in his retirement has been taking tourists around Mennonite country, says he has hardly received any overseas visitors this year because of security fears, compounded by the H1N1 swine flu outbreak in April.

Busloads of Canadians and Americans no longer visit the city's Mennonite Museum for the same reasons.

"We don't know what future awaits us," Mr Peters states with a tone of acceptance. "Only God knows."

But for this Mennonite at least, his future is in the land of his birth. "We are Mexican now," he proclaims as he clasps his hands together for emphasis. "Mexicans and Mennonites are like this!"

"We don't know what God wants with Mexico… but yes, we will stay, yes we are going to pray very much and come together."

This peaceful religious community could be facing its biggest test yet
 

escargot

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Was going to post this a while ago under 'Weird Sex', but found it just too depressing and baffling -

Mennonite father dies in Bolivia after being hung for nine hours


A Mennonite father of nine has died after being hung from a pole for nine hours by 22 of his brethren who accused him of rape, abuse and violating their religious rules, police said.

There have been no arrests for the death of Franz Wieler Kloss, 37, but police said community members thought he was a participant in a two-year mass rape case that was uncovered this summer.

"The Mennonites punished Kloss according to their customs and that punishment killed him," said Cololnel Miguel Gonzales, special crime unit director.

The murder comes three months after Bolivian prosecutors charged eight men from several Mennonite farming villages with raping dozens of women at the settlement. Prosecutors say more than 60 women, from 11 to 47 years old, have accused the men of rape. The men were suspected of using some form of aerosol spray to drug the women.

Kloss had been locked in a cage as punishment several times for a variety of alleged sins including mistreating his wife and children, drinking alcohol, and slacking off on his farm work, according to Bolivia's El Deber newspaper.

His final punishment came almost two weeks ago, when his accusers tied him onto a pole and left him there for nine hours. When he was taken down he couldn't move his arms. He was taken to a hospital a few days later and placed on a respirator, but he died yesterday, police said.

Bolivia's insular Mennonite community lives traditionally, shunning modern conveniences such as electricity as they farm soybeans, corn and other crops. They use wagons, not cars, for transportation and sew their own clothes.
The aerosol drug spray sounds just too UL-like, somehow. :?
 

Anglocelt

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I've been to Mennonite communities in the north of Mexico, where two distinct types have emerged; the more progressive who dress more individually and married outside the community, and those who didn't. They all drove pickup trucks though, and they were all pretty rich and had big houses. Where I was they ran their own hospice/care home, owned farms, furniture stores, restaurants, and tyre remould centres in the town, and had a museum. They're regarded as one of the three nationalities in Chihuahua state; the Mexicans, the indigenous Taramuhara people, and Las Mennonitas.

Their religion is essentially Baptist, but the traditional Mennonites I met conducted their church services in High German, the English equivalent of which would be a bit like listening to a church service where everything was in Shakespearian 'thees and thous'.

I think it's interesting that some ideologies that were so forward-thinking and really broke the mould in their day, become hyper-traditionalist; in some ways almost the opposite of what they started out as.

As for the issue of the crimes mentioned in this thread, I'm absolutely sure there are crimes among Mennonites such as rape and manipulation just as much as there are in the 'outside' world. I have no idea if cases are statistically higher or lower, though; it's sometimes hard to tell when the media gets sensational about sex crimes when they're committed by priests or minority communities, but ignores hundreds of similar crimes when there isn't an interesting enough spin on it for them.
 

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Bolivian Mennonites jailed for serial rapes
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-14688458

The convicted men were part of a 2,000-strong Mennonite community

Related Stories

Bolivian Mennonite women 'raped'
Bolivia's Mennonite community
Drug war hits Mexico's Mennonites

A court in Bolivia has sentenced seven members of a reclusive conservative Christian group to 25 years in prison for raping more than 100 women.

The men, members of a Mennonite group, secretly sedated their victims before the sex attacks.

The victims' lawyer said the 2000-strong Mennonite community where the rapes happened welcomed the sentence.

The group follows a strict moral code and rejects modern inventions such as cars and electricity.

An eighth man was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years for supplying the sedative used to drug the women.

The rapes happened in the Mennonite community of Manitoba, 150km (93 miles) north-east of the city of Santa Cruz.

Shocking crimes

The court heard that the men sprayed a substance derived from the belladonna plant normally used to anaesthetise cows through bedroom windows at night, sedating entire families.

They then raped the women and girls. The youngest victim was nine years old.

Continue reading the main story
Mennonites

Mennonite Churches descend from Protestant communities in Europe
There are said to be some 1.5 million Mennonites worldwide
Mennonites follow the teachings of Menno Simons, a 16th Century religious leader from what is now the Netherlands
Recent figures suggest there are 15,400 Mennonites in Bolivia
The exact number of those raped is not clear. Some women had no recollection of being raped, while others feared being ostracised in the deeply conservative community, lawyer Oswaldo Rivera said.

Mr Rivera said almost 150 had taken part in the trial, but he feared there could be another 150 too ashamed to give evidence.

He said some feared they would not be able to find a husband if it was known they had been raped, as women are expected to abstain from sex until marriage.

Prosecutor Freddy Perez said colony elders suspected something was wrong when they wondered why one man was getting up so late in the mornings, and they decided to shadow him.

He was then spotted jumping through a window into one of the victim's houses.

The BBC's Mattia Cabitza in Santa Cruz said it proved difficult to gather evidence from the victims because of the community's isolation and patriarchal structure.

The convicted men were also accused of threatening the fathers of some of the victims not to speak out.

Irreversible damage

Many of the victims speak only low German, the language of the Mennonite founding fathers, and have never learned Spanish.

There are some 30-40,000 Mennonites in Paraguay and Bolivia.

While many of them are indistinguishable from their neighbours and have religious beliefs very similar to mainline Protestant and Evangelical groups, others reject modern life and live in isolated communities.

Manitoba Colony, where the rapes happened, is an ultra-conservative community, with no paved roads or electricity.

Its members move around by horse-drawn buggy and dress in traditional Mennonite dress.

Mr Rivera welcomed the sentences but said he feared some of the women had suffered irreversible damage.
 

AsamiYamazaki

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We have lots of Mennonites in Ontario. Generally, I believe Mennonites are less extreme than Amish. The ones in Ontario have their horses and buggies, wear bonnets and braces, and work the land or make furniture and seem fairly happy. We've got a few farmers' markets where they turn up and it's obvious they have a handy balance between archaism and being modern enough to make hard cash.

However, a lot of the Latin/South American Mennonites are pretty extreme. A woman I work with has a brother who moved into a Mennonite community and adopted a couple of Mennonite children from Columbia (I think). Apparently the kids have a huge amount of problems, both being mentally challenged plus they grew up in an environment with a lot of sexual and physical abuse. The brother totally underestimated the extent of the problem, thinking that all Mennonites were good people, only to find he had two very damaged children on his hands. Very sad.
 

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An article about Mennonites in Bolivia. Images at link.

Mennonites: Connected to the Land, Not the Web
http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2012/09/te ... /?pid=3645
BY JAKOB SCHILLER 09.14.12 6:30 AM

Conservative Mennonite communities around the world have lived as simply as possible for centuries. They don’t drive cars and refuse to use electricity.

In eastern Bolivia, where photographer Jordi Ruiz Cirera recently spent time with the Mennonites who’ve settled there, families still use gas lights and travel by horse and buggy. They’re not used to the conveniences of the modern world and are still unfamiliar with most modern technologies, including cameras.

That unfamiliarity is present in many of Cirera’s photos, including one of a young girl that is now a finalist for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize awarded by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

“It’s obvious that she doesn’t know how to represent herself to the photographer,” he says. “I think the photo gives you a real glimpse of what life is like in this community. It shows you how far away they are from everyone else.”

While Cirera’s work is not nearly as extensive as Larry Towell’s famous Mennonite project, the photos have a similar feel and provide an updated look inside an isolated community.

Professor Royden Loewen, the chair of the Mennonite Studies program at the University of Winnipeg, says many Mennonites do without the conveniences of modern life because they’re trying to adhere to a strict code of simplicity that is based on original biblical teachings.

As a Protestant Christian group, Mennonites “often talk about following Christ’s example rather than having faith in Christ,” Loewen says. “Mennonites are known for taking Christ’s teachings literally.”

Because the Bible talks about Christ as a pacifist, Mennonites believe in pacifism. In the name of simplicity many are farmers. But just like any religious group, Loewen says there are varying levels of devotion. He says about two-thirds of the Mennonites in Bolivia are more conservative and adhere strictly to the no technology rule. But the other third, which he says are often referred to as “car-driving Mennonites,” use most modern technology freely.

Around the world he says there are many different ways that Mennonite communities interpret the rules.

Cirera says most of the people he stayed with were more conservative. They chose to be farmers and raised corn and soybeans that were then fed to cattle that they sold in the Bolivian markets. People in communities, or “colonies” as they are referred to, do have contact with regular Bolivians, he says, but it’s mostly the men who travel to sell the cattle or buy supplies. The women and children are more isolated.

Loewen says there are currently about 70,000 Mennonites in Bolivia, 99 percent of whom originally came from Canada in the 1920s. They fled that country, he says, because at the time Canada was trying to force Mennonite children, who speak Low German, to attend English-language Canadian schools against their will.

Many of those Mennonites originally moved to Mexico, but then migrated to Bolivia in the late 1960s when the areas in Mexico where they lived became too modern.

When it came to being photographed, Cirera says each person made their own interpretation about where photography fit into their beliefs on simplicity. Some were okay with having their portraits taken. Others said they couldn’t pose but were okay with candid pictures. Others refused to have their picture taken all together.

The one thing that was on his side, Cirera says, is that without electricity the people he stayed with were forced to rely on natural light. Their dining room tables were almost always in front of a window, he says, creating the perfect studio for impromptu portraits.

“The consistency was amazing,” he says.

All Photos: Jordi Ruiz Cirera
 

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THE GHOST RAPES OF BOLIVIA
http://www.vice.com/read/the-ghost-rape ... 0300-v20n8
THE PERPETRATORS WERE CAUGHT, BUT THE CRIMES CONTINUE
By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky

All photos by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky. Noah Friedman-Rudovsky also contributed reporting to this article.

F or a while, the residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women. There was no other explanation. No way of explaining how a woman could wake up with blood and semen stains smeared across her sheets and no memory of the previous night. No way of explaining how another went to sleep clothed, only to wake up naked and covered by dirty fingerprints all over her body. No way to understand how another could dream of a man forcing himself onto her in a field—and then wake up the next morning with grass in her hair.

For Sara Guenter, the mystery was the rope. She would sometimes wake up in her bed with small pieces of it tied tightly to her wrists or ankles, the skin beneath an aching blue. Earlier this year, I visited Sara at her home, simple concrete painted to look like brick, in Manitoba Colony, Bolivia. Mennonites are similar to the Amish in their rejection of modernity and technology, and Manitoba Colony, like all ultraconservative Mennonite communities, is a collective attempt to retreat as far as possible from the nonbelieving world. A slight breeze of soy and sorghum came off the nearby fields as Sara told me how, in addition to the eerie rope, on those mornings after she’d been raped she would also wake to stained sheets, thunderous headaches, and paralyzing lethargy.

Her two daughters, 17 and 18 years old, squatted silently along a wall behind her and shot me fierce blue-eyed stares. The evil had penetrated the household, Sara said. Five years ago, her daughters also began waking up with dirty sheets and complaints of pain “down below.”

The family tried locking the door; some nights, Sara did everything she could to keep herself awake. On a few occasions, a loyal Bolivian worker from the neighboring city of Santa Cruz would stay the night to stand guard. But inevitably, when their one-story home—set back and isolated from the dirt road—was not being watched, the rapes continued. (Manitobans aren’t connected to the power grid, so at night the community is submerged in total darkness.) “It happened so many times, I lost count,” Sara said in her native Low German, the only language she speaks, like most women in the community.


Mennonite children attend school in Manitoba Colony, Bolivia.

In the beginning, the family had no idea that they weren’t the only ones being attacked, and so they kept it to themselves. Then Sara started telling her sisters. When rumors spread, “no one believed her,” said Peter Fehr, Sara’s neighbor at the time of the incidents. “We thought she was making it up to hide an affair.” The family’s pleas for help to the council of church ministers, the group of men who govern the 2,500-member colony, were fruitless—even as the tales multiplied. Throughout the community, people were waking to the same telltale morning signs: ripped pajamas, blood and semen on the bed, head-thumping stupor. Some women remembered brief moments of terror: for an instant they would wake to a man or men on top of them but couldn’t summon the strength to yell or fight back. Then, fade to black.

Some called it “wild female imagination.” Others said it was a plague from God. “We only knew that something strange was happening in the night,” Abraham Wall Enns, Manitoba Colony’s civic leader at the time, said. “But we didn’t know who was doing it, so how could we stop it?”

No one knew what to do, and so no one did anything at all. After a while, Sara just accepted those nights as a horrific fact of life. On the following mornings, her family would rise despite the head pain, strip the beds, and get on with their days.

Then, one night in June 2009, two men were caught trying to enter a neighbor’s home. The two ratted out a few friends and, falling like a house of cards, a group of nine Manitoba men, ages 19 to 43, eventually confessed that they had been raping Colony families since 2005. To incapacitate their victims and any possible witnesses, the men used a spray created by a veterinarian from a neighboring Mennonite community that he had adapted from a chemical used to anesthetize cows. According to their initial confessions (which they later recanted), the rapists admitted to—sometimes in groups, sometimes alone—hiding outside bedroom windows at night, spraying the substance through the screens to drug entire families, and then crawling inside.

But it wasn’t until their trial, which took place almost two years later, in 2011, that the full scope of their crimes came to light. The transcripts read like a horror movie script: Victims ranged in age from three to 65 (the youngest had a broken hymen, purportedly from finger penetration). The girls and women were married, single, residents, visitors, the mentally infirm. Though it’s never discussed and was not part of the legal case, residents privately told me that men and boys were raped, too.

In August 2011, the veterinarian who’d supplied the anesthetic spray was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and the rapists were each sentenced to 25 years (five years shy of Bolivia’s maximum penalty). Officially, there were 130 victims—at least one person from more than half of all Manitoba Colony households. But not all those raped were included in the legal case, and it’s believed the true number of victims is much, much higher.


Mennonite children playing soccer in Manitoba, Colony, Bolivia.

In the wake of the crimes, women were not offered therapy or counseling. There was little attempt to dig deeper into the incidents beyond the confessions. And in the years since the men were nabbed, there has never been a colony-wide discussion about the events. Rather, a code of silence descended following the guilty verdict.

“That’s all behind us now,” Civic Leader Wall told me on my recent trip there. “We’d rather forget than have it be at the forefront of our minds.” Aside from interactions with the occasional visiting journalist, no one talks about it anymore.

But over the course of a nine-month investigation, including an 11-day stay in Manitoba, I discovered that the crimes are far from over. In addition to lingering psychological trauma, there’s evidence of widespread and ongoing sexual abuse, including rampant molestation and incest. There’s also evidence that—despite the fact that the initial perpetrators are in jail—the rapes by drugging continue to happen.

The demons, it turns out, are still out there.
 

Kondoru

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Ok, just how easy is it to drug someone by spraying stuff though a window?
 

Mythopoeika

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Kondoru said:
Ok, just how easy is it to drug someone by spraying stuff though a window?
Not that easy, I'd guess. Depends what is being used.
 

ramonmercado

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More on the Bolivian Mennonites. Difficult place to get a dance if you're a Mennonite.
Dancing is allowed in only two of the over 70 colonies in Bolivia.

Step Back in Time With the Mennonites of Bolivia

Photographer Jordi Busqué spent a decade documenting Mennonite families who have migrated to Bolivia in search of greater autonomy.

By Laurence Butet-Roch
Photographs by Jordi Busqué
PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 27, 2018

On a foggy night twelve years ago, Jordi Busqué thought he was hallucinating. He and his brother were waiting for a bus in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia when out of the darkness, tall figures dressed in overalls, cowboy hats, and long frocks passed by without a sound. Inquiring about the strange apparition the next morning, Busqué learned they were Mennonites, a religious group committed to pacifism, social discipline, and community-based agriculture.

Busqué, who is from Barcelona, had never heard about the Mennonites. Fascinated, he sought them out, eventually visiting 20 colonies over the course of the next 10 years.


A Mennonite family poses for a photograph in front of their house. From right to left: Gerhard Klassen, Anna Bren with baby Sarah, Heinrich, Peter, Eva, Catarina, Anna, Gerhard Jr., Elisabet, Elena, and Jacob. Durango Colony, Bolivia. 2006


https://www.nationalgeographic.com/...0180402&utm_campaign=Content&utm_rd=641112160




 

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Pfft, the Amish wouldn't be caught dead dressed like that.
 

Patrick30

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There’s many more Mennonite communities in my neck of the woods than Amish. Our Mennonites definitely use technology but only to advance their social agenda. If they perceive harm to their way of life then that technology is banned. They drive cars but they are functional vehicles that they consider productive. Pickups, mini vans, modest sedans, etc. you won’t see a Mennonite driving a sports car or anything flashy. They set up businesses and use the best tech they can to generate income. They are farmers, machinists, meat processors, bakers, even restauranteurs. They have a substantial wholesale network of food items that connects all the different communities. Their biggest business locally is prefab outbuildings. The make and sell tons of em that are of the highest quality. In fact I’d rather live in one of their prefab buildings upgraded with plumbing and electrical than any single or doublewide house trailer. I’m suprised more people don’t go that route. But there’s a ton of em serving as storage buildings, shops, etc. Last year while driving thru the reservations out west I commented that if you gave these poor native Americans one of our Mennonite storage sheds to live in they would be rich.
You won’t find them watching TV or surfing the Internet, but they will build websites and Facebook pages for their business. They are extremely productive people but atypical in that they are all business and family, no frills or indulgements that do not help their agenda. To their credit they don’t evangelize other than using their skills to help others build churches or recover from natural disasters. They will put bible verses on their mailboxes and that’s about it.
I would not want to live as they do and if I was born into it I’m pretty sure I’d be miserable, but to be fair they are my favorite fringe Christians.
 
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ramonmercado

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Full text at link.
More on this case.

In Manitoba, an insular Mennonite colony in Bolivia whose residents eschew modernity, nine men were rounded up in 2009. Later, they were convicted of the rape and sexual assault of 151 women and girls - including small children - within this small Christian community. So why are Manitoba's leaders now lobbying to free the men from prison?

Unpaved dirt roads run alongside fields of soya and sunflowers and connect the far-flung houses of Manitoba, home to 1,800 people. Treads from the iron wheels of tractors are sunk deep into the mud - rubber tyres are prohibited on motorised vehicles, deemed too modern.

The hot, still air is occasionally stirred by the passing of a trotting horse pulling a buggy laden with women in wide straw hats and men in dark dungarees.

This is the principal form of transport in Manitoba. For members of the colony, driving a car or motorcycle is banned and punishable by excommunication by the bishop and ministers.

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-48265703
 
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Jim

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More on this case.

In Manitoba, an insular Mennonite colony in Bolivia whose residents eschew modernity, nine men were rounded up in 2009. Later, they were convicted of the rape and sexual assault of 151 women and girls - including small children - within this small Christian community. So why are Manitoba's leaders now lobbying to free the men from prison?

Unpaved dirt roads run alongside fields of soya and sunflowers and connect the far-flung houses of Manitoba, home to 1,800 people. Treads from the iron wheels of tractors are sunk deep into the mud - rubber tyres are prohibited on motorised vehicles, deemed too modern.

The hot, still air is occasionally stirred by the passing of a trotting horse pulling a buggy laden with women in wide straw hats and men in dark dungarees.

This is the principal form of transport in Manitoba. For members of the colony, driving a car or motorcycle is banned and punishable by excommunication by the bishop and ministers.

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-48265703
Sounds more like a fascist prison camp than a "religious colony". An excuse for self-centered A-holes to get there rocks off at the expense of vulnerable females.
 
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