In 2009, Mennonite women in a far-flung Bolivian colony reported mass rape. Now leaders of this insular, Christian community with its roots in Europe are campaigning to free the convicted men. More than 100 women and children were attacked in the colony of Manitoba, and their courage in telling their stories secured penalties of 25 years for the rapists. But within Mennonite circles, doubts continue to be aired about the imprisonment of the men. They too protest their innocence, claiming their initial confessions in Manitoba were forced under threat of torture. The culture of abuse in the old colonies – physical and sexual – has often been commented on. And it’s partly this that gave the impetus for the foundation of one of Bolivia’s newest Mennonite communities. Hacienda Verde has been hacked out of virgin forest, and is home to 45 families. These are people who were ex-communicated in their old colony homes, often because they would not live by the harsh rules of conservative Mennonites – rules that govern every facet of life, from the clothes and hairstyles that are allowed, to the rejection of any kind of technology.
Presenter / producer: Linda Pressly
(Photo: Bolivia Mennonite colony, Belice, Girl at school. Photo Credit: @jordibusque)