Readers Write, January 26, 2024

January 25, 2024 | Opinion
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Literature saves lives
Your editorial and feature interview with Di Brandt struck a chord (“Poetic justice,” September 22, 2023). I have been reading Brandt’s poetry and essays for decades; her poem, questions i asked my mother changed—no, saved—my life, as she has done for many others, especially women.

I encourage you to publish more articles about Canadian Mennonite literature and its authors. This is a lifeline for many who have been silenced and the ones who have had to go elsewhere for support and recognition as persons and writers.

Literature is vitally important to all communities; instead of vilifying and shunning writers who offer insightful truths and questions through fiction, we must open a way to dialogue, to understand, to hear. It is through literature, after all, that we learn kindness, humility and honesty.

Literature invites self-reflection and the abandonment of denial of feelings, injustices and a host of other things that exist within Mennonite communities. The whole point of literature is to make us aware of our communal hypocrisies and to make us face the injustices therein (and to make us do something about them).

To Di Brandt: Please do not repent of your writing. We need you.

– Rita Dirks, Calgary, Alberta 

Strong disagreement

I disagree strongly with the last two paragraphs of Kyle Penner’s article (“To thine own self be true?” December 15, 2023).

He refers to choosing baptism, faith and following Jesus as “giving up part of our own journey.”

I believe choosing Jesus does not mean giving up part of my own journey. I believe choosing Jesus means choosing to find true meaning for my life.

Choosing Jesus means choosing to become an authentic human and becoming the person God wants me to be.

– Robert Boardman, Toronto (Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church)

Credit where credit is due
The person who deserves the credit for the establishment of the Neuland Colony in Paraguay is Peter Derksen, its founder and long-time leader, not Hans von Niessen (“Resettlement giant dies,” December 15, 2023).

At the founding of the colony, Hans von Niessen was in his late teens. In 1957, he became my Grade 7 teacher. After my father, Hans Rempel, established the Mennonite Church in Neuland, and served it as leader for 12 years, von Niessen took over. Some years later, he emigrated to Germany.

At Neuland’s 75th anniversary two years ago, I don’t recall any reference to him, but plenty of references to Peter Derksen.

For historical purposes, some fact-checking might be in order.

– John Rempel, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Niagara United Mennonite Church)

Editor’s Note: According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO), the Neuland Colony was “organized on 4 June 1947 under the leadership of Peter Derksen."

Two-state solution no solution at all

I don’t understand the West’s insistence on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Our world is full of the actual and human debris of these kinds of problems, based on moral and ethical circumstances rather than logic or politics: Genghis Khan’s treatment of the locals as he swept through Asia and Europe; Ottoman treatment of Armenians; Nazi treatment of the Jews; Stalinist Russia’s treatment of Ukrainians; Serbian treatment of Bosnians; and so on. The discontent continues to this day.

Regardless of the apparent injustices brought about by Western support of the 1948 establishment of Israel, it is abundantly clear that the people populating the place called Israel have done a commendable job of creating a state which is more or less democratic, innovative, productive and generally a pleasant place to live.

It makes no sense creating a separate state next door full of malcontents and deliberately hostile people. The people of these two states will be at each other’s throats forever, and nothing will be solved.

I have worked in agriculture with people from both sides of this story for 45 years. My recommendation is:

Recognize the ability of the Israeli leadership to run a reasonably successful country.

Change the name of this country from the “Jewish State of Israel” to the “Democratic State of Israel.” Run it like a true democracy in action, not only in name. Equal rights to everyone living there.

Change the boundaries of this country to Lebanon in the north, the Jordan River in the east, Egypt in the south and the Mediterranean Sea in the west.

The sooner, the better.

– Richard Penner, Saskatoon (Nutana Park Mennonite Church)

Eleven words
Unless you are against all killing, you are not a Mennonite.

– Walter Quiring, Coquitlam, B.C.

Soul-warming material
Quite a heartening story and account of Bethany Manor residents presenting the Nativity (“Away in a manor,” January 12). Reading this article warmed my soul.

 Clare Neufeld (online comment) 

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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