Thoughts of Peace and Dirk Willems in Steinbach

This past Saturday, I went to the unveiling of the Dirk Willems statue at the Mennonite Heritage Village.

To be honest, I hadn’t realized this was going to be a peace exhibit. But I very quickly learned the truth:

I was a tad late, and so I’d expected to see a group of people collected around the statue… but there was no one around. Well, this allowed me to get a picture of the statue, all covered up.

The plaque reads: “Dirk Willems was an early Anabaptist in the Netherlands. He is seen here rescuing his pursuer from icy water. Dirk was imprisoned for his beliefs, which were at odds with practices of the state church of the 1500’s. He managed to escape, fleeing over the thin ice of the moat surrounding his prison. Giving chase, the jailer fell through the ice and cried for help. Willems turned back and saved the jailer’s life. He was immediately recaptured and later burned at the stake on May 16, 1569 in Asperen, Netherlands. For Mennonites, Dirk Willems represents what it means to follow Jesus’ way of peace. Erected in 2018 by the Peace Exhibit Committee and Friends. Sculptor, Peter Sawatzky.”

I then turned and followed the footprints in the snow, which led to the MHV’s newest structures, the pavilion. Everyone had trundled into the pavilion to hear a few words from those on the Peace Exhibit Committee, and from the sculptor, Peter Sawatzky.

Doris Penner addresses the crowd.
Sculptor Peter Sawatzky shares a few words, with Elbert Toews looking on.
A chilly, but short, pilgrimage to see the sculpture.
Sculpture unveiling!
A brief prayer of dedication… and I must be honest, I did open my eyes, to see the circle of Mennonites shivering in the cold, praying. I was one of them.

Then, we were urged to return to the pavilion and warm up with coffee.

There was some literature, which I eagerly collected. I learned that this was just step one in developing a Peace Exhibit which would include of course this statue, also a Conscientious Objector monument, and an interpretive shelter in which visitors could sit and contemplate the concept of peace.

Plans for the Peace Exhibit.

I have been to two other places where Peace was emphasized and given space for contemplation: The Peace Gardens here in Manitoba, and the peace exhibit at Hiroshima. I think it’s lovely that the Mennonite Heritage Village now also has space where visitors can give the concept of peace some serious thought.

Here are some pictures of the sculpture: