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SnakeBirds: Mennonites, Human Rights & State Power

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Virgil Wiebe

on 28 September 2016

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Transcript of SnakeBirds: Mennonites, Human Rights & State Power

The Protectors

The Perpetrators

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. . .
Hebrews 13
Isaiah 53
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
Psalm 58
Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge people fairly?
No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.
Wolves in Sheep's Clothing?:
The Possessors

A New Martyrs Mirror?
"[S]tories of costly discipleship within various parts of the Anabaptist-Mennonite church persisted in subsequent centuries, especially in the Russian Mennonite tradition and among Anabaptist-related groups in North America during times of war. Moreover, faithfulness to Christ in the face of adversity continues to be a persistent and widespread reality in many parts of the global Anabaptist-Mennonite fellowship today."
John Roth, Should we update Martyrs Mirror?, The Mennonite, June 1, 2012
"A victim mentality leads to separatism. We cluster in out-of-the-way places, suspicious of people who are different. We describe commitments like discipleship, peace and community as 'Mennonite distinctives' that we own, rather than as a natural part of a Jesus-centered life. . . ."
" . . . A victim mentality can lead to a quietism that hampers our witness and to a strange combination of self-righteousness and low self-esteem. Sometimes it seems Mennonites can’t quite imagine others being good enough to live up to our standards, while at the same time we can’t quite imagine that we are interesting enough for anyone else to want to hang out with us."
Carlos de Sola
Wright Fund
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. John 10: 11-12
Andre Gingerich Stoner, Our Victim Mentality, MWR, 5/28/12, http://www.mennoworld.org/2012/5/28/our-victim-mentality/
Gerhard Rempel's article "presents a sobering view of Mennonite collaboration with the German Schutzstaffel (SS) in carrying out the “final solution” and their extensive ties to the concentration camp at Stutthof near Danzig. It also exposes Mennonite participation in the massacre of Jews at Zaporozhia, the region around the Mennonite colonies of Chortitza and Molochna." Rempel, Mennonites & the Holocaust, MQR
Called to be Snakebirds
Mennonites, Human Rights, and State Power
Virgil Wiebe
University of St. Thomas
"[I]t generally prefers ponds or lakes surrounded by deep and almost impenetrable morasses, and having a few large trees growing out of the water near their centre, from the branches of which they can easily mark the approach of an enemy, and make their escape in good time."
- John J. Audubon, 1840
"The people of Chambon acted on their conviction that it was their duty to help their 'neighbors' in need. Many factors joined in the creation of this spirit: the Protestant history of persecution as a religious minority in Catholic France; empathy for Jews as the people of the Old Testament and a shared biblical heritage; and last but not least, the powerful leadership and example of their pastor and his wife, Andre and Magda Trocme."
Le Chambon: Lest Innocent
Blood be Shed

From Victim to
Ban Advocate
. . . as
. . . as
http://web4.audubon.org/bird/BOA/F41_G2a.html The Audubon quotes.
Photo credit: Johnny Wee
Heart Smart
Wise, Prudent
Head Smart
Smart, Intelligent, Astutos
StreeT Smart
sinister smart?
Sly, Cunning, Shrewd,Clever
Survival Smart
Wary, Cautious, Atentos, Listos
Innocent, Faultless
Gentle, Humble, Humildes, Simple,
Guileless, Inoffensive
Harmless, "Don't Hurt Anyone"
Anhinga - "Snakebird"
Why is Dirk Willems our
favorite ice fishing hero?
Wisconsin DNR
Predators !
Shepherd !
"Adult pike are fearsome predators."
Ken Burton, Wildlife Expert
We can get our martyrdom fix
and our hero fix in one story!
The Persecuted

The Nature of Ruling Powers
Head Smart
Heart Smart
Survival Smart
Street Smart
go to 1:40
Kettles of anhingas often migrate with other birds, Ted L. Eubanks, Robert A. Behrstock, Ron J. Weeks (2006). Birdlife of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast. Texas AM University Press. pp. 70.
they are often found mingled with various other species in the large rookeries. In the great Cuthbert rookery in southern Florida, which occupies a small mangrove island in Cutbbert Lake, we estimated, on our first visit on May 1, 1903, that the population consisted of about 2,000 Louisiana herons, 1,000 white ibises, 600 Florida cormorants, 200 anhingas, 100 little blue herons, 18 American egrets, and 12 roscate spoonbills;
Arthur Cleveland Bent, Life Histories of North American Petrels & Pelicans 231 (Smithsonian,1922)
Kenneth Cole Schneider
"Showing no mercy, the Anhinga began pounding the fish’s head on the log"
CallED TO Conversion
for their young
- of self
with others concerned about
human rights
"The more retired and secluded the spot, the more willingly does the Snake-bird remain about it."
John J. Audubon, 1840
the faith community matters
Jana Miller
Patrick Connolly
-of community
-of ruling powers
Patrick Connolly
"Indefinitely Gregarious"
Sources & Parked Ideas:
How do we make sense of such a bundle of contradictions?
Matthew 10:16
train our youth and each other
it's okay to look inward. . .
. . . so long as we look outward
Call to conversion
giving & receiving counsel
Bad, Bad Shepherds, and The Good shepherd
Should not shepherds feed the sheep? .... You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them....

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.
Ezekial 34:2-4
Wise as Serpents, Innocent as Doves
Sheep, Shepherds and Wolves
The nature of ruling powers
Case Studies:
Refugees and Cluster Bombs
Mennonites as
Call to conversion
Anhinga anhinga
Anhinga rufa
Anhinga melanogaster
Anhinga novaehollandiae
-Refugee Advocates
-Beneficiaries &
Trains. . .
... and Indians . . . and lots of Soldiers
Called to be Snakebirds
Victims, Advocates, and Beneficiaries
NSAGs, States & International Organizations
Overground Railroad & the Cluster Munition Coalition
"The classic crop of Kansas -- hard red winter wheat -- arrived with a large colony of Russian Mennonites that settled lands of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, whose land officer became known as 'the Moses of the Mennonites.'"
- Thomas J. Misa, A Nation of Steel
My cousin Jill played
Anna Barkman
"C.B. Schmidt, the representative of the Santa Fe Railroad Company, who stood among the immigrants, quietly met [Burlington & Missouri RR] Touzalin's offers with a counter offer in Kansas."
Stanley Voth, Voth Family Tree
"Finally, in most contests with native Americans the railroads proved irresistible. 'The construction of the road,' stated the Central Pacific's general solicitor, 'virtually solved the Indian problem.'
- Thomas J. Misa, A Nation of Steel
From the Santa Fe Railroad to the Overground Railroad
The wicked go astray from the womb;
they err from their birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.
Psalm 58
Now thank we all our God
Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Non-State Armed Groups
International Organization
Multinational Coalition
. . . and each is made up of many moving parts
super size
(All claim licenses to kill)
To Protect?
To Persecute?
Ruling Powers Should be Shepherds, Can be Sheep,
but are often Wolves
"I then hid myself among the tangled plants, and, with my eyes bent on the dead tree, and my gun in readiness, I remained until I saw the beautiful bird alight and gaze around to see if all was right. Alas! it was not aware of its dancer, but, after a few moments, during which I noted its curious motions, it fell dead into the water."
-John J. Audubon, 1840
SnakeBirds as victims
in Kettles
"The pond apple trees surrounded by water are an ideal place for nesting. Adult males and females can easily forage for fish and the surrounding water helps to protect the nests from predation by raccoons and ... alligators"
Sheep, Shepherds and Wolves
Victims, Advocates, and Beneficiaries
Cluster Munitions
Banning Cluster Munitions
+ Care
+ Congregating
Peter Feigel's Testimony
The Overground Railroad
Laying the Tracks
from Texas to Canada - Faith Communities
Phounsy Phasaveng, Lasee Phetsavong,
Raed Mokaled and Bassam Chamoun

MCC Voices against Cluster Munitions
Olga Rayo

From Nicaraguan Refugee
to Child Advocate
Sladjan Vuckovic

From Explosive Ordnance Clearance to Victim to Ban Advocate
Call to Conversion
Small, Medium, and
SuperSize States involved
More Stories: Aunt Nettie Rempel,
Born in Einlage, Ukraine
massacre of Jews at Zaporozhia
Overground Railroad
- A congregation without borders
- Harlingen
- Chicago
- Comer, GA
specks & motes?
Salvadoran military
Doroteo Rivera: From Perpetrator to Victim
Misplaced Revenge?
Refugee turned Murderer
"True believing Christians," wrote Conrad Grebel in the fall of 1524, "are sheep among wolves.... They must be baptized in anguish and tribulation, persecution, suffering, and death, tried in fire."

Leland Harder, ed., The Sources of Swiss Anabaptism: The Grebel Letters and Related Documents (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985), p. 290, cited in John Roth, Forgiveness and the healing of memories: an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, John Roth,
J of ecumenical studies, Sept 2007.
Co-founding the Cluster Munition Coalition
Working with Friendly Governments
(c) 2012
Presented at the University of Winnipeg, October 18, 2012

Full transcript