27 May 2010

In God's hands?


In Colonia El Sabinal, a traditional Mennonite Colony in the Chihuahua desert, there are no phone lines, no cellular signals and no electrical lines. Residents travel by horse and buggy, mostly speak Low German and generally have large families. There's also little security, resulting in criminal groups - possibly affiliated with drug cartels or possibly just taking advantage of the local lawlessness - pillaging businesses on the colony.

Now, some of the traditionally Mennonites are looking to move on, although violence isn't the only factor - or even the original factor for looking at land in other parts of Mexico and beyond.

Ever-encroaching modernity is one factor: Residents of other traditional colonies in the area to the southwest of Ciudad Juarez fled for Bolivia when electricity arrived. Other factors for departing included water and land shortages on the colonies, which were founded over the past 25 years by Mennonites looking for their own land; the original colonies other parts of Chihuahua and Durango had already filled up.

Now violence is factoring into the decision to move on, although no one is predicting a mass exodus and many Mennonites cite their deep religious beliefs and acceptance God's will as sources of strength during difficult times.

I visited a pair of colonies in northwestern Chihuahua last month to write on the situation confronting Mexico's Mennonites and to explain how some of them - descendants of Mennonites leaving the Canadian Prairie in the 1920s - have Canadian passports and might just look north if the violence worsens even more.

Here's the story, published in the Editorial Observer section of the Ottawa Citizen.

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