Twenty-five years ago a crisis in Vietnam set in motion a massive migration of refugees that transformed the Mennonite church communities in Canada. Tens of thousands of southeast Asia refugees, who came to be known as Boat People, fled the ravages of war and sought refuge in Canada. Mennonite church responded enthusiastically. With the response came a cultural shift. A new to non-Europeans developed. Refugee sponsorship now became an ongoing concern for many Mennonite churches. Closer working relationships with government agencies developed. Then, too, the ethnic composition of Mennonite churches began changing, as Chinese and Vietnamese Mennonite churches were born and more non-Europeans began attending Mennonite churches. Just what was the nature of these changes? How did they occur? Who were the major players? What were the relationships that were formed? Which other ethnic groups were assisted? What was the legacy of this moment in time?
These are some of the questions that a history conference planned for October 2005 will seek to answer. The conference, supported by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada and Mennonite Central Committee Canada, and hosted by the Chair in Mennonite Studies at the university of Winnipeg, will be a weekend of analysis and celebration.
The conference is looking for story-tellers and presenters. It is especially looking for people who were involved in the settlement of the Boat People to tell their stories at the conference. A special appeal is made for host and sponsored families who have maintained relationships over time who would be willing to tell their stories together. Deacons and pastors are encouraged to present their congregations' experience with non-European refugees. And, any academic interested in investigating this story from an historical, sociological, theological perspective is encouraged to participate.
Anyone interested in participating should-contact either Royden Loewen at the University of Winnipeg (email@example.com) or Ken Reddig at Mennonite Central Committee Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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