Men arrested over alleged rape of Bolivian Mennonite women

By staff writers
June 25, 2009

Seven men have been arrested over the alleged rape of 60 women or girls from Bolivia's Mennonite community. Up to 40,000 Mennonites live as farmers in Paraguay and Bolivia.

According to a prosecutor, the incidents all occurred in the Manitoba colony, which is in Bolivia's eastern lowlands and included abuse of girls as young as 14.

All of those accused deny the allegations against them.

Forensic doctors and psychologists have been sent into Manitoba to examine the victims.

Mennonites in Bolivia tend to be conservative in their religious and social outlook and relatively cut off from the rest of the world.

The allegations have caused shock and confusion in deeply traditional communities.

The thought that the perpetrators may be men from their own communities is shocking to them.

Recent figures from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia suggest that there are around 15,400 Mennonites in Bolivia.

The Christian denomination, descended from the Radical Reformation in Europe, has some 1.5 million members worldwide.

Mennonites come from a pietist background that emphasises community living, believers' baptism, and peacemaking.

'Old order' and conservative Mennonites continue to practice separation from the world and from many aspects of modern culture.

But modern Mennonites in the USA, Europe and elsewhere are well known for their peace and justice work.

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