Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mennonite Pastor Arrested And Tortured, Prominent Lay Leader Beheaded, Near Kalona

There are more Mennonites in the Congo than in the entire US
Oops, not Kalona, a large Mennonite community in the state of Iowa.

Make that Kalonda, in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to an even larger community of Mennonites, one of the fastest growing Mennonite communions in the world. Congolese Anabaptists now number some 240,000 in all, far exceeding the membership of the Mennonite Church in the US.

What a difference one letter, and 10,000 miles makes in what we are made aware of as headline news.

I ran across the tragic story of a Mennonite lay leader who was recently decapitated (near the village of Kalonda), along with an account of pastor in Lubami who was brutally beaten and whipped, in our last issue of the Mennonite, "a forum for Mennonite voices". Far from being a feature article, it was a five-paragraph account in the "News Briefs" section, submitted by Mennonite Mission Network and entitled "Mennonite Church in Congo Sustains Major Wounds".

I'm not faulting the Mennonite for its coverage, but simply noting how isolated we all are from our world neighbors, sisters and brothers who share our faith and who are a part of our global faith family.

Here's my question: What might have been the coverage if the recent events in the Republic of the Congo had occurred in, say, Germany, with some 47,000 Mennonites, or in Russia, with 3000 members, or even in Australia, with only 300 Mennonites?

In other words, what role might factors like race, ethnicity, social class or economic privilege play in what we consider headline Mennonite news?

On a positive note, the same July 2017 issue of the Mennonite carried a major three-page story highlighting the heroic life of Michael J. Sharp, an EMU grad who died in that same Kasai region of the Congo in his efforts to bring about peace among warring factions in the region.

But should we not give equal time and attention to the unnamed Congolese martyr in the "News Brief" section, referred to only as "the husband of the regional president of the Mennonite women's association"? And to the person who was tortured, referred to simply as "a Mennonite pastor in Lubami"?

They, like Michael Sharp, are our brothers.

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