A little while ago I stumbled on this old book at the Bethesda Hospital used book sale at Clearspring Mall in Steinbach, which I must say, was always a pretty reliable place to get some neat books on Mennonite history. Neither Andrew nor I read much German, but we figured out that the book was a program from the Mennonite World Conference. (Haha. ‘Mennonitische Welt-Hilf-Konferenz. It doesn’t take a linguist to figure out that much German).
I can’t read any of the contents of the book, as it’s all in German, but it’s a program from the second Mennonite World Conference in Danzig in 1930. According to some research, I discovered that the particular theme of this conference was the Mennonite response to the refugee crisis at the time, presumably the one among Mennonites in the Soviet Union (like Andrew’s grandfather who came to Canada just a few years before this).
Danzig is now called Gdansk and is now part of Poland. It’s interesting that they chose to hold this conference in Danzig. That region of the world historically had a large Mennonite population. Many of so-called Russian Mennonites resided for a couple centuries in the Gdansk area after relocating from The Netherlands and Belgium, and before immigrating to Russia. But, I suspect, the population of Mennonites in Danzig was quite reduced by 1930.
I’ve never attended a Mennonite World Conference, but our friend Mark attended the conference in 1997 in Calcutta and speaks fondly of it. Calcutta you ask? Yup! See, that’s what intrigues me about the Mennonite World Conferences. Their purpose is to facilitate dialogue and community among the global Mennonite community, which extends way beyond those of us here in southern Manitoba. In fact, I think you’d find, if you attended one of these conferences, that those of Mennonites who speak Plautdietsch and eat vereniki are actually a tiny minority of the global Mennonite population.
They’re held every six years. In addition to Danzig and Calcutta, conferences have been held in Asuncion, Winnipeg, Strasbourg, Curitiba, and Bulawayo – all over the world – with the last one being in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I’m not sure where the next conference in 2021 will be held, but I hope to attend one some day.
Have you been to a Mennonite World Conference? (I suspect none of you were at the Danzig conference. Haha). I’d love to hear about your experiences.