A conference later this month will examine the place and displacement of Mennonites throughout their history. It will be hosted by the Chair in Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Professor Royden Loewen says the many displacements of Mennonites over time are a key part of their history.
"From a Mennonite history or a Mennonite studies perspective, this is a story that has been at the foundation of Mennonite wanderings around the world. Their history is full of migration from one place to the other and so 'place' tugs at the heart, you know; Where did you come from? and Where are you making your home?"
Loewen says the conference will look at the displacement from many different aspects and gives a couple of examples.
"This happens to be the centennial of the Russian revolution and, of course, that revolution displaced tens of thousands of Mennonites, 20,000 coming to Canada in the 1920's. There'll be lots of stories about suffering in the Soviet Union and being relocated. But then, there's another kind of displacement, and that is Mennonites who grew up on the farm or who grew up in small towns and find themselves in large cities today, that is also a form of displacement from your former home."
Furthermore, Loewen says the conference will include a well-known author as well as a man with direct ties to Mennonites who were forced out of Russia.
"As featured speakers, we have Miriam Toews who is known in Steinbach and southern Manitoba as a native daughter of this region who talks in her novels about growing up in a Mennonite community and finding herself somewhat displaced. But we also have Johannes Dyck, who grew up in Kazakhstan, and he has stories of elders who were forced out of their homes by the Soviets."
The conference will take place at the U of W October 19-21. It is open to the public at no charge.