Mennonites in Belize

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Mennonites in Belize
Menonite Children.JPG
Mennonite children selling peanuts to tourists near Lamanai in Belize.
Total population
10,865 Ethnic Mennonites are white and 793 Mennonites are of other races[1][2] (2010)
Regions with significant populations
Spanish Lookout, Upper Barton Creek
Religions
Anabaptist
Scriptures
The Bible
Languages
Plautdietsch, English, Spanish

As of 2008, there are close to 10,000 conservative Prussian Mennonites living in Belize. In addition to this, there are another 2,000 mostly Kriol and Mestizo Belizeans who have converted to Mennonitism.[1] Mennonites living in Belize are among the most traditional and conservative of all the Prussian Mennonites in Central America. In 1999, the Mennonites (excluding converts from other groups) had a birth rate of 42.53 per 1000, which was well above the national average of 30.71 per 1000.

As Mennonites accept only adults as members, the total population of the Mennonite congregations in Belize is underestimated by membership counts. The largest denomination was Altkolonier Mennoniten Gemeinde with 2,052 members. Other denominations were Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship with 140 members, Caribbean Light and Truth with 137 members (mostly Kriol), Church of God in Christ with 42 members (mostly Kriol), Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference with 388 members, Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Belice with 400 members (mostly Mestizos), Kleingemeinde zu Blue Creek with 60 members and Kleingemeinde zu Spanish Lookout with 710 members (All figures as of 2006).[3]

Economic contributions to Belize[edit]

Mennonites in Belize contribute to the carpentry, engineering and agricultural industries of Belize. They produce milk, cheese, beans, corn, melons, honey, chicken, and eggs. They have turned sections of tropical jungle into highly productive farmland. They are also skilled in manufacturing household furniture as well as constructing houses.[citation needed]

Customs and Traditions[edit]

Mennonites on New River, Belize

Mennonites are easily identified by their clothing. The women wear bonnets and long dresses while the men wear denim overalls and hats. The men may wear traditional suspenders and dark trousers. The women wear brightly colored dresses. In many of the Mennonite communities there is a softening of the old tradition. In Barton Creek, the women wear the bonnets and long dresses and use horse drawn buggies for transportation. The fields are all tilled by horse drawn implements.

When it comes to burial, the Mennonites conduct their service mainly in German but some parts in English so that visitors can take part. They use bibles like other Christians do. The caskets are made of plain lumber which is lined with white cloth inside and black cloth outside. There is no buying of expensive caskets when it comes to luxury. A portion of the shoulder remains open during the service. After the rites the whole congregation files orderly to the front of the church to pay their last respect. In Spanish Lookout, members and friends of the deceased addresses the congregation after the obituary has been read. Tombs are not a part of burying. A cross is used for marking the name and spot. Before returning the body to the earth, a few hymns are sung. Members of the community take turns shoveling the earth until the burial is completed. After that the community comes together and feasts on bread, sausages and coffee with the bereaved family.

Weddings usually start with courtship and last for six months to a year. The boy's parents ask the girl's father for permission. After that the parents get together and set wedding dates. The penultimate Saturday evening before the wedding is called "falafness". On this event, the friend of the bride and the groom shares the bible reading. Weddings are performed on Sundays. It usually consists of two ministers, one to explain the meaning of matrimony and the other to do the blessings. Gifts given are usually tools and household items.

The Mennonites have made it a point to have their own school, church, and financial institution in their community.

Major colonies[edit]

The population stood at 4,959 in 1987. The major colonies were: Shipyard (1,946), Spanish Lookout (1,125) and Little Belize (1,004). Presently in Belize there are eight different communities of Mennonites, namely Shipyard, Blue Creek, Little Belize, Progresso, Spanish Lookout, Upper and Lower Barton Creek, Springfield and Pine Hill.[4]

Smaller outreaches of Conservative Mennonites can be found in numerous communities throughout Belize.

Controversy[edit]

While the Mennonites in Belize have been very prosperous in agriculture, there have been complaints that they often do so with no regard for the environment or environmental laws. They have been criticized for their environmental impact through large scale deforestation,[5] some communities' liberal use of pesticides and fertilizer, and degradation of farm lands. Mennonites clear large amounts of tropical rainforest for agriculture, destroying all plant and animal life in the area. Some communities (Hillbank and La Milpa) are also known for shooting protected species, such as jaguar, which may venture near their areas.

See also[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Carel Roessingh and Tanja Plasil (Editors): Between Horse & Buggy and Four-Wheel Drive: Change and Diversity Among Mennonite Settlements in Belize, Central America, Amsterdam 2009.
  • Dale J. Nippert: Agricultural Colonization: The Mennonites of Upper Barton Creek, Belize. Memphis 1994.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Belize 2000 Housing and Population Census
  2. ^ 2010 Population and Housing Census Housing Characteristics
  3. ^ http://www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/PDF-PPT/2006carcsam.pdf
  4. ^ Mennonite Historical Atlas - William Schroeder, Helmut Huebert - Google Books
  5. ^ Trapasso LM (1994). "Indigenous attitudes, ecotourism, and Mennonites: Recent examples in rainforest destruction/preservation". GeoJournal 33 (4): 449–452. doi:10.1007/BF00806428.