Looking from the outside in - people, place and practice

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bolivia's Mennonites

The Bolivian Mennonites live in the same way as more familiar groups, such as the Amish in Pennsylvania, U.S and the Afrikaners in Orania, South Africa. Communities like these usually live apart from the rest of society, since they share different beliefs and core values that prevent them from conforming and settling within society. The Mennonites, much like the Amish and Oranians do all their own labour, plant their own crops and live fairly isolated from the rest of the world's technology.

Violence is an infrequent and often unfamiliar occurrence in communities like these. In June of 2009, a community of Bolivian Mennonites were shaken to the core, when a 100 girls and women (as young as 11 years old) were raped by members of their community. The women and girls were drugged in the middle of the night in their homes and then sexually assaulted. Many of the teenage girls now fear that they'll never get married, since this very conservative community believes that you should get married as a virgin.

Similarly, in 2006 the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Penn. experienced a horrific school hostage situation and shooting, where 10 girls (aged 6-13) were shot, killing 5. Acts of violence are of course much more difficult  for people, who have been so isolated from the rest of the world, to deal with. Are these communities 'wrong' to isolate themselves in this way, setting themselves up only to deal with the everyday and the simplistic? Or are they better off not knowing, what we know?

Photos by Lisa Wiltse

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