Throughout the years, in fact decade after decade there has been little known disturbances reported from within Mennonite Communities across Belize except for the occasional work or traffic related fatalities. Today, however, a group of people turned to the media to shed light on a side of the community and the religion that paints a disturbing picture. The move comes following an altercation between two groups of men at camp ten in Shipyard last Tuesday, April 22nd. We start our rather extensive coverage of the situation here, with that incident.
The incident occurred on the property of Franz Petca, where his son George was along with other young men listening to music. Note that exposure to music is strongly prohibited at the community but Franz Petca has been excommunicated from the church and his family no longer follows the teachings. However, reports are that the young men are targeted by followers of the church. The group of young men was listening to music when they were allegedly attacked by another group. Henry Reimer says he saw the incident unfold and ended up being beaten as well.
Reimer says he was stoned while George Petca was assaulted with a machete that was reportedly placed to his throat. His mother, who allegedly came out in an effort to break the fight, was chased away with machetes by the band of men. It was at this point when Franz Petca came out from his home armed with a shotgun. A concerned Pete Penner, who lives outside the community, said he understands the family was minding their own business when the young men were attacked.
“These guys were waiting at the road side doing their thing and those people showed up and start fighting again and the fight broke loose and nobody could separate so his mother came and interfere so these guys were chasing her away with a machete and then the old man he is in jail right now and he is facing charges for manslaughter. He went and got his shot gun and fired into the air warning shots; leave my wife alone, leave my son alone because these guys were attacking his son with sticks and machetes basically like a swarm of African killer bees.”
Franz Petca was picked up by police and charged for aggravated assault, discharge of firearm in public, possession of firearm whilst under the influence of alcohol, wounding and drove motor vehicle with alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit. His family though, says he was not drinking and that he has a license for his firearm. The incident has sparked the ire of many of the persons who have been ostracized from the religion or the church. Penner, who left the community and the country as a teenager, says this incident is being treated unfairly by authorities.
“Doesn’t anybody have the right to defend your property and to defend your family, he didn’t shoot anybody he fired warning shot into the air.”
The fight as we understand it, was not supposed to have even occurred. Penner says that while the boys are from excommunicated families, it seems that the elders of the community had taken steps to keep them from interacting with other young men within the community.
“The elders of the church set up a meeting with these guy that were excommunicated and with their people and they had a meeting at their church and basically came to an agreement that whilst it was going to stop and these guys were going to stay at their corner and they are going to have a different group over there and a different group over here so these guys were supposed to stay ad do their business over here and those guys over there don’t interfere with each other.”
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