Bolivian Mennonite women were not believed

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky’s piece on the Bolivian Mennonite rape trial was the most read and most emailed article on the site for two days after it was published, and the most emailed article again yesterday. Because of its popularity, it will appear in hardcopy in the upcoming TIME Magazine international edition. Clearly, it’s touched a nerve.

Another article by Friedman-Rudovsky on the same events recently appeared in The Christian Science Monitor: In Bolivia, rape trial pries open closed society of Mennonite ‘Old Colonies’. It’s troubling to read that it took so long for the women to be believed, and that their need to talk about what happened and receive counsel is still not being recognized the way it should be! It’s also troubling to hear, from other sources, that incidents similar to those alleged in the case are apparently still happening.

The story is by its very nature somewhat sensational, but I suspect that much of the interest in it, especially for the Mennonite community, is the ongoing and complex tragedy of what has happened to these women and girls. So I think we should view this extensive publicity as a good thing. Some Mennonites who comment on the articles worry that others will think all Mennonites are like that, etc. An understandable concern, I suppose, but really, we’ll simply have to live with that and ought to be turning our hearts and minds instead to how we might respond.

So what can we do? I’d suggest that we exert as much pressure as possible on our two broad Mennonite agencies — Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite World Conference — to make this need a priority. MCC already has a number of programs that connect to Bolivian Mennonites (Old Colony Mennonites in other countries as well), which we might support with increased giving and prayer.

But I think more could be done. After all, this story didn’t just break open in the last weeks because of Jean Friedman-Rudovsky’s fine work, but came to the attention of both the world and Mennonites some years ago. Sometimes it feels as if those who are speaking out on its behalf are also still not being believed!

It makes sense to me that MCC might be the umbrella under which to gather a wide array of resource people with interest and knowledge and ongoing connection — their own staff, for example, those from ministries like the Low German work of Family Life Network, Mennonites in neighboring Paraguay, anyone with an ability to relate to conservative and closed communities — and to sit down and do some solid further strategizing for this situation. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I think the wider Mennonite community — and the watching world — needs to be assured that this cry of women and girls in Bolivia, and their entire community, is being treated with the utmost urgency and seriousness. It needs to know that new programs and money will be initiated if there is any possibility at all of them being received. I’m wishing to hear someone say, “We’ll be the point people on this issue, talking to them and talking to you, our Mennonites constituency. And this is what we’re doing…”

5 Comments

Filed under Mennonite, Women's lives

5 responses to “Bolivian Mennonite women were not believed

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks Dora for lifting up this crying need. I totally agree – we, as an intl community stand with the women,… and also work with the men — after all an aggressor has to be a very wounded human being to not know or not care what kind of pain he is inflicting on someone. And I’m guessing that in the Bolivian Mennonite male matrix,like in male culture most everywhere, there is a conspiracy of support or support by silence that allows rape to go on unchallenged..

  2. Christine

    Ich stimme 100% mit diesem Post überein! Mir tun die Frauen so weh, dass sie niemand haben, mit dem sich sie darüber äußern können — dass jemand ihnen nur zuhören könnte und ihnen sagen würde, dass Jesus Christus sie für ganz reine und keusche Frauen / Mädchen / Kinder hält. Ich lese irgendwie, dass Plattdeutschsprechende Frauen von der Mennoniten Kirche nach Bolivien gereist sind. Ich hoffe und bete so sehr, dass sie irgendwie Zugang zu diesen Frauen finden.

    Mir tun auch alle anderen Mitglieder solcher Gemeinden weh, dass sie glauben könnten, dass die Rechtschaffenheit dieser Opfer irgendwie durch diese Verbrechen geschadet wäre, oder, noch schlimmer, dass keine Effekte davon leiden, weil sie während der Vergewaltigungen unbewusst seien. tut mir Leid: Der Bischoff und die anderen, die so denken werden dafür vor Gott verantworten müssen.

    Noch dazu, dass sie meinen, die noch-nicht-Getauften dürften vorher sündigen, ‘rumspringen und sogar homosexuelle Sexakte treiben, geschweige denn ihre eigenen schwesterlichen Mitgleider ihrer eigenen Gemeinden auf einer so brutalen Weise angreifen. Es ist auch klar, dass diese Verbrechen immer noch getrieben werden, dass sie jetzt eingeprägt worden sind.

    Wie können Kinder und Jungendliche unter einer solchen Ordnung durch Jesus Christus wircklich gerettet werden? Wie können Gemeindenleiter wirklich den Geist Gottes spüren.

    Creo que cuando pensamos en los mennonitas que viven de la manera sencilla, nos los imaginamos como en un tipo de Jardín de Edén, porque algunos habitan área tan bellas de Latinoamérica, rodeados de las más ricas bendiciones de la naturaleza que testifican del amor de Dios por nosotros. Son personas que se dedican a lo más fundamental y sencillo de la vida, lo que más permitiera concentrarse en las cosas de Dios, y en poder ver a Dios en cada faena de la casa o del campo, en cada reunión demonical, en cada momento leyendo la Biblia y contemplando Su bondad revelada en las escrituras durante tertulias familiares y comunitarias.

    Pero es como si ellos mismos crearan su propia serpiente y la colocaran dentro de este bello jardín de amor; como si lo hicieran todo al revés. De alguna manera me duele más porque viví tres años en Bolivia; allá me casé con mi esposo boliviano; alla nacio nuestro hijo mayor. El folclore y las culturas de Bolivia son una presencia viva en nuestro hogar.

    Ich weiß, dass Gott uns alle liebt, und dass Er uns gerne den Weg zeigen will, die zum ewigen himmlischen Glück führt. Ich weiß auch, dass Er möchte, dass wir wenigstens einen Teil diese Glücks hier auf Erden innerhalb des Familienkreises spüren können. Seine Gebote führen uns zu dieser Glückseligkeit.

    Vielleicht kommen unsere Geschwister in Manitoba, Bolivien, und woanders, eines Tages zur dieser Kenntniss Seiner Liebe.

  3. April

    Hi there, I found your blog while doing a search on Jean Friedman-Rudovsky. I read a disturbing follow-up article she recently wrote about the case. Based on your post, I thought you may be interested. Here is the URL: http://m.vice.com/read/the-ghost-rapes-of-bolivia-000300-v20n8?Contentpage=1
    April Tatton nee Hildebrand

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