Screen_Shot_2014-04-28_at_9.14.30_PMThe problem in Shipyard is more complex than it appears however, since the structure of the community; the larger part of it, is fixed on the strict rules of the religion. That religion reflects those of other denominations but there are several exceptions and differences.

 

While it is founded on the belief in the mission and ministry of Jesus, parts of the religion is viewed as radical. They follow the teachings of Menno Simons, who lived from 1496 to 1561. The Mennonite communities are generally viewed and accepted as a peaceful people due to their commitment to pacifism.

 

This is how they have basically been viewed within Belize, but where there are rules, these rules are inevitably broken and this is where tensions begin to run high. Following the altercation between the two groups of men last week, a group of men who have been excommunicated from the church for breaking the rules have turned to the media to talk about what they say is the hidden side of the community, a side that paints a rather disturbing picture. Dalila Ical reports.

 

Dalila Ical – Reporting


Pete Penner – Concerned Citizen


“These people call themselves a follower of him but, if that guy would comeback today and look at this religion he wouldn’t have not part of it. That guy was a follower of Jesus but like in any religion after an amount of years it is going to fade away and become a manmade religion.”


This is the general sentiment among those who have been excommunicated from the church in Shipyard.

The rules are strict and are placed by the elders, from what we understand less than two dozen men within the community of over three thousand residents. They are strongly against music, electronics, sports and modern conveniences. The community even encourages little to no interaction between members of the church and the modern world. But the rules can prove to be too much for some, even impossible to avoid says Pete Penner who was raised in the community until he was a teenager.


Pete Penner – Concerned Citizen


“It’s almost impossible but like I said everybody breaks the rules here and there, you will see it in town every time they come to and do stuff that you wouldn’t expect them to do but all they have to do is come back before the elders and apologize and you will be accepted back in but if you are stubborn enough to not apologize and say you are sorry when you are really not them you are excommunicated.”


And once excommunicated, you are shunned. No one talks to you or conducts any business transaction with you. This has led to a division within the community says Henry Redekopp, who has lived at Shipyard for over four years and seen the problem firsthand.


Henry Redekopp


“There’s a lot of division in the community, for one unless you belong to their group then you are ok unless you have never been part of the group.”


Redekopp leads an evangelical church with a congregation of about sixty men and women who have been shunned within the community.


Henry Redekopp


“That means our people no longer allowed having a voice in our community and even though they lived here all their lives their voice is silenced.”


The situation those who are excommunicated are left in is rather a difficult one, and even after years, the situation is something hard to speak about as in the case of David Freizen.


David Freisen – Excommunicated


“I was excommunicated just because my son starting to study the bible and that is something against the community so the priest would tell what you have to do; you can read the bible but don’t try to study it or try to share it with your neighbor.”


Reporter


“And because he did that your whole family was excommunicated, what does it mean to be excommunicated, what do they come and tell you or how does it work?”


David Freisen – Excommunicated


“Sorry am not ready to do it right now.”


The situation has escalated to violence as is reported in the latest case last week Tuesday. It’s a situation that those who have either been kicked out of the religion or willingly left disagree with.


Pete Penner – Concerned Citizen


“I think they just need to be exposed and their powers be taken away from them.”


Those who say they have been subjected to such violence says they have made reports to police, but they have been unsuccessful in bringing their aggressors to justice since they claim that authorities are being bribed and controlled by the elders.  After repeated fruitless efforts, the oppressed have little faith in the police.


Henry Reimer


“I go all the time to report to the police and the police told me that is nothing just put me in jail and lock me, that is what he did and that is why I don’t go there I don’t trust the police.”


It’s a situation that they say must be brought to light especially since their faith is founded on peace.


Henry Redekopp – Resident, Pastor


“Their statement of faith is a very peaceful statement of faith so if they would live by their statement of faith this would be a very peaceful community, very peaceful people, would be a peaceful people who would want us to be integrated.  Over the years their way of life has been threatening in a way and so it has become a ruled based religion although it is more religion than faith.”


In tomorrow’s newscast we will bring you the story of how those who have been excommunicated have to deal with the situation and the emotional stress they go through.

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