What for many of us may be a fleeting headline about strife on the other side of the world is for others within our faith family a heartbreaking reminder of a painful past and ongoing hardship for relatives in their country of origin.
In late October, Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (IMCOL—Colombian Mennonite Church) issued a public statement declaring that there have been 60 massacres (killings of five people or more at a time) so far in Colombia in 2020. Victims include young people and small farmers, as well as 200 civic leaders.
It has become a routine yet still shocking news report: another shooting in a quiet neighbourhood or at a shopping centre, nightclub, school or place of worship. Then come the familiar offers of “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their loved ones. Sadly, there have been too many opportunities to pray these prayers recently.
The five regional churches comprising Mennonite Church Canada have issued an invitation to “all congregations to join in a nationwide call to prayer for comfort and strength for our Jewish faith communities, particularly those here in Canada and the USA. In the wake of the Pittsburgh massacre of Jewish worshippers this week, all congregations in MC Canada are being asked to pray this Sunday for Jewish faith communities that have been impacted by this act of violence. Please join your sister congregations in lamenting all forms of violence against those who are different from us.
Ten-year-old Kanku Ngalamulume fled from his home in the village of Senge after armed groups beheaded his mother and father and his siblings too.
He was among 1.4 million people in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have been forced from their homes as violence among local militias and the Congolese military erupted in August 2016.
Oh God of Love,
Maker of human neighbours and neighbourhoods,
Hear our prayer
from the Danforth, for the Danforth.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (I Cor. 12:26).
In February, we were part of a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) delegation to Syria, including Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo. We witnessed the devastation of war and heard testimonies of faith from people who have been living in difficult circumstances now for seven long years.
What do we do with Psalm 137? While “Sing us one of your songs of Zion” (verse 3) rings in Christian minds as a sign of deep grief, the accompanying “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” (verse 9) strikes most as exceedingly difficult.
‘We have a responsibility to our sons to break down the systems of emotional constriction that lead so many men to have lives of quiet desperation and depression,’ says scholar Jackson Katz. (Photo by The Representation Project)
During a Facebook livestream on Ash Wednesday, podcaster and author Mike McHargue made an emotional plea for men to reconsider what masculinity looks like. (MikeMcHargue.com photo)
‘[A] man is empathetic, because a man who is not afraid of his own feelings is not afraid of the feelings of other people,’ says Mike McHargue. (Photo by The Representation Project)
Although many brave young people have spoken up in the aftermath of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., to advocate for tighter gun regulations in the U.S., it’s words spoken by a man in his 40s that I keep coming back to.
Loving the generous people of the Democratic Republic of Congo is not difficult, but evil happening in the rural Kasai region of that lush country is hard to comprehend.
Menno Simons’ favourite verse was chosen for the cloth commemorating the centennial of Communauté Mennonite au Congo (Mennonite Community in Congo). Mennonites in the Democratic Republic of Congo are currently facing violence and displacement in the conflict-plagued Kasai region. (Photo by James Krabill)
Standing at the site of a Mennonite church in Kalonda village in Kasai Province, this 16-year-old mother said that her husband was murdered in her presence. She and her child are not named for security reasons. (MCC photo by Joseph Nkongolo)
In Kele village near Tshikapa in Kasai Province internally displaced people answer questions posed by the assessment team providing input for a collaborative Anabaptist response. (MCC photo by Joseph Nkongolo)
Downtown Kikwit in Kwilu province. Kikwit, which is home to many Mennonites, has received thousands of refugees from the Kasai region. (Photo by Rod Hollinger-Janzen)
Soap and salt purchased by Mennonite Church of Congo to assist refugees. (Photo by Rod Hollinger-Janzen)
A primary school plundered during March clashes between Kamuina Nsapu rebels and police in the Kasai region of DR Congo. (Photo © UNICEF / Dubourthoumieu)
Christine Mamina and Adolphine Tshiama, national secretary and national president, respectively of the Women's Association of Mennonite Church of Congo. (Photo by Rod Hollinger-Janzen)
WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence.
Dozens of Congolese Mennonites have been killed, hundreds of their homes have been burned, and thousands of them have fled, as violence consumes the Kasai region, birthplace of the Mennonite church in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
When I shared the story of my attack, I got a wide variety of responses from my friends, family, and co-workers. It is difficult to know what to say to people after things like this happen, so I was grateful whenever someone attempted to talk about it with me or to give me advice.
As many of my friends already know, I flew directly from Bogotá to Canada in early May, rather than journeying to Barrancabermeja to complete the final month of my stint on team with CPT. I have been asked many questions about what happened to me, so I will describe the incident here. If reading about violence is a trigger for you, I recommend you stop reading here.