Readers write: June 21, 2021 issue

June 16, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 13
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Columnist thanked for his ‘encouragement and inspiration’
Are you okay with okay?” April 26, page 11.

What a fantastic reflection by Troy Watson. I am glad that he assumed this message was for someone, and that he let all of us who read Canadian Mennonite consider it for ourselves. It certainly was an encouragement and inspiration for me. I am moved by all of his articles, but this one stood out to me as particularly inspired. Thanks.
—Garry Janzen (online comment)


‘Stand by me’ touches reader’s heart
Focus on Mental Health” section, May 10, pages 27 to 30.

Thank you for the three excellent articles on helping non-professionals deal with this maligned and misunderstood health issue.

I was particularly struck by “Leonard’s” story and quote about the role of the church in “Stand by me” on page 27: “. . . had enough prayer to rub the hair off the top of my head . . . putting things in God’s hands is an excuse people use sometimes not to do anything practical themselves.” Harsh but well said.

It is my view that Anabaptist Christians are blessed with a particular gestalt to advance the best of mental-health science and practice with a compassionate and egalitarian approach, but we also, at times, forget to celebrate our significant successes already.

There are corporate success stories like Shalom and More Than a Roof and Communitas in B.C., to name only a few, but there are many more families and individuals who have structured their lives around family, friends and strangers who have mental-health challenges.

We must also remember that mental-health problems often follow, or are worse with, those with developmental disabilities, in particular, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the greatest developmental problem in the western world. Our response has been to “medicalize” the issue or, when too severe, to institutionalize the problem.

A fairly recent provincial study revealed that, at any point in time, more than half of all inmates in prisons had an FASD diagnosis. This is a tragedy that is beyond measure. Our 25-year-old son with FASD has been spared the vagaries of the justice system on three occasions. Although I was a former parole officer and parole board member, I consider alternatives to prison to be more humane and practical.

And yes, “Leonard,” we must continue to learn to do the day-to-day things to actualize our prayers.

Let’s all help to negate the notion that there “is no balm in Gilead.”
—Peter A Dueck, Vancouver
The writer is a member of Peace Church on 52nd, Vancouver.


Treat highly loaded term ‘fascist’ cautiously
European fascist parties were led by ruthless and theatrical leaders (Mussolini, Hitler, Franco), who basked in the adoration of crowds in mass meetings. Was there ever such a Russian Mennonite leader: Johann Cornies or P.M. Friesen? Any of the successful industrialists? Can you imagine one haranguing a frenzied Mennonite assembly at an annual conference meeting?

Fascists unashamedly endorsed violence  (brown shirts, street rowdies) against any opposition. They believed that war was an essential part of any vigorous and enduring society (social Darwinism). I don’t believe the selbstschutz (self-defence units) is an example of this view; it was a reluctant and desperate result of circumstances, not of an ideology.

Fascists had no place for the handicapped, social deviants and members of what they considered weak or inadmissible social groups (gypsies and Jews). Now we are all aware of the tragic results. In Russia, Mennonites established Maria, a school for deaf mutes (Nazis came and shot the pupils), and Bethania, a mental health hospital. Mennonites also gave material and medical assistance to Russian families when the soldier husband/father was killed or wounded, like in the Russo-Japanese war.

Regarding Jews, many lived in Russia, and Mennonites were fully aware that Russians despised them. The stories in Onse Tjedils recorded the experiences of Mennonite medics during the First World War and found no attacks or criticism of Jews. In Johann Cornies’s day, Mennonite farmers were even called upon to help improve farming skills of Jewish settlers.

As a grad student back in the 1960s, I recall when “fascist” was a term used to attack and intimidate anything and anyone certain radicals disliked. No one wants a return to that kind of situation. To be accused of being fascist is a serious blow to any individual, institution or social group. Let’s tread carefully.
—Al Hiebert, Coldstream, B.C

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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