MCC advocacy for Indigenous rights in Canada: reflections from history and the present


Individual articles from the Summer 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog twice per week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.

MCC Canada has a long history of speaking to the Canadian government about militarization and participation in armed activities. Over the years, this advocacy has evolved as relationships with Indigenous nations in Canada have opened the door to new understandings of peace and nonviolence. Yet these new understandings have come with challenges that continue today. MCC advocacy in support of various Indigenous communities of Labrador in protesting against NATO military activities at the end of the Cold War and later against a hydro-electric dam initiative illustrates both challenges and opportunities for MCC’s advocacy in Canada more broadly.

University students from across Canada attending MCC Ottawa Office student seminar February 12-14, 2015, on advocacy and faith gather around Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill as part of a witness walk in Ottawa. (MCC photo/Monica Figueroa)

Since the early 1950s, MCC Canada sought meetings with prime ministers to advocate for the rights of conscientious objection and alternative service. Over time, those petitions began to shift focus, moving from requests for the respect of Mennonite religious beliefs to including asks for government actions to reduce international conflict. Speaking to government about matters of conflict and war gradually became a part of MCC’s relief, development and peacebuilding work. This change, along with a recognition that a listening post in Ottawa would further the work of MCC, led to MCC opening its Ottawa Office in 1975.

Over the ensuing years, MCC advocacy became increasingly linked to MCC’s model of accompaniment and community service. As Esther Epp-Tiessen writes in her history of MCC in Canada, MCC service workers living in communities around the world and witnessing firsthand the harm of military action began to increasingly share about the impacts of Canadian policies and military action. These concerns began to form the basis of MCC’s advocacy communications and shape the way MCC understood its dual responsibilities—to its Anabaptist constituent in Canada and to the communities and partners MCC accompanied.

During the final years of the Cold War, MCC Canada undertook advocacy related to the impact of global militarization in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. MCC have had an ongoing, long-term presence in Labrador, with work in the province stemming back to the 1970s (and with partnership with Innu communities beginning in 1983). In the 1980s, NATO began testing low-level military flights over Innu traditional territory in Labrador, taking off from and landing at the Canadian military base in Goose Bay. More than 8,000 flights took place each year, harming wildlife and disrupting the Innu community’s traditional way of life. As the Cold War progressed, NATO proposed building a larger, more permanent training base in the area. Despite some hesitation from its governing board, MCC Canada began to highlight the concerns of these Innu communities through advocacy, as part of a larger advocacy campaign against Canada’s participation in NATO in general.

If the Innu are not requesting military defence, and if Mennonites from a Christian peace position are saying the same things, how would it be if we would find a way of making a joint statement between the Innu and Mennonites to that effect?

— Menno Wiebe

For several years, the Ottawa Office had consistently voiced concerns around NATO and Canada’s participation in the Cold War arms race in their correspondence to government. Now, the office began to include Innu voices and experiences in their communications to government officials, connecting advocacy against Canadian militarization with Innu concerns about how NATO flight were upending their traditional way of life. Advocacy against NATO began to include requests to also resolve land claims and to look for shared points of connections between Mennonites and Innu communities, including shared understandings of relationships to the state.

In a 1989 letter to MCC Canada program leaders, Menno Wiebe, director of MCC’s Native Concerns program, asked: “If the Innu are not requesting military defence, and if Mennonites from a Christian peace position are saying the same things, how would it be if we would find a way of making a joint statement between the Innu and Mennonites to that effect?” Wiebe highlighted a meeting between Peter Penashue, an Innu community leader, and five liberal members of parliament, in which the Innu stated that they were not asking Canada to defend them. For Wiebe, the Innu assertion of their sovereign right to refuse being defended by NATO and the Canadian military opened potential fruitful connections to Mennonite concerns about militarization.

MCC’s Ottawa Office raised further concerns about the NATO flights over Innu territory through its partnership with Project Ploughshares. These advocacy initiatives encouraged Canadians to send letters and request meetings with government officials to voice concerns about the NATO flights, arguing that “in the name of ‘security,’ such fighter-bomber flight training is imposing insecurity on the Innu peoples.” Other letters seeking to mobilize advocacy efforts referred to the lack of a just relationship between the Government of Canada and the Innu, calling on the Canadian government to re-examine its commitment to the proposed NATO base.

During this time, the Innu invited Rick and Louise Cober Bauman and their children to live in the more rural community of Sheshatshit, in part based on their increased trust of MCC through MCC’s willingness to advocate. Rick recalls sending faxes encouraging advocacy and providing updates from the local Innu resource centre, connecting Mennonites and many other interested supporters not only in Canada but also in the United States, the Netherlands and Germany. The family living room was the site of planning sessions to block fighter jets from taking off by occupying the runway at the military base. MCC was intimately involved in witnessing the devastations of colonization, the struggle for self-determination and the impacts of Cold War politics on those far removed from the causes of conflict.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ending of the Cold War, flights from and construction on the NATO base stopped. Without the push around direct militarization, Ottawa Office advocacy on the Innu issues declined. The Indigenous communities in Labrador, however, continued to face challenges to their right to live on their land. Structural violence, rather than overt military presence, continued. A hydro-electric dam built at Muskrat Falls and completed in 2019 has posed concerns around land and water contamination.

MCC workers sought to discern how to respond to such ongoing colonization, especially as shifts in approaches among Indigenous communities varied. Overall, the Innu did not oppose the dam, as the project approval was a part of their land claims agreement. The Southern Inuit and Northern Inuit communities downstream from the dam, however, engaged in advocacy over their concerns of methylmercury poisoning, with the support from only a very few members of the Innu community.

MCC workers, up until 2019, engaged actively in responding to these shifting concerns and nuances within the region. They built relationships with land defenders in the Inuit communities opposing the hydro project and actively facilitated community organizing processes. Instead of working with Chief and Council, as they had with the Innu, MCC workers connected with strategic individuals. They worked to bring members of the different communities together, along with working behind the scenes to support public statements and actions. MCC workers intentionally tried to keep a lower profile and focused on raising the voices of individual land defenders, rather than the voice of MCC.

The advocacy component of MCC’s local presence was strong, but public Anabaptist support of advocacy against the hydro project was not the same as with advocacy against the NATO flights, despite heavy RCMP presence at the site to arrest and remove protesters. Other grassroots organizations across Canada and the U.S. advocated against the hydro project, but there was very little Anabaptist outcry. The Ottawa Office was unable to offer much support, due to changing MCC priorities in Canada. Without the direct connections to militarization, there was no longer the same tangible draw for Mennonites or peace activists.

Rick Cober Bauman reflects that “mines and dams didn’t have the same impact as women running in front of jets. We may believe we can live without defense, but can we live without nickel or hydro? Things got more complex.” This complexity was seen not only in lack of Canadian Anabaptist support for advocacy against the hydro project, but also in the important nuances MCC workers navigated each day, as they responded to the different concerns and relationships they had built, relationships that included the different perspectives of multiple Indigenous groups, nuances that were easy to overlook when only focusing on a response to overt militarization or communicating a more simple story about MCC’s presence.

Elizabeth (Tshaukuish) Penashue, photographed in 2011, an Innu elder from Sheshatshit, north of Happy Valley Goose Bay, N.L., is deeply concerned about the future of her community and culture which she believes is closely linked to the wellbeing of the environment. Penashue organizes an annual canoe trip to increase awareness of the importance of protecting land and water from pollution and to pass on knowledge of Innu culture, traditional survival skills and food. MCC has a longstanding relationship with Penashue and has provided assistance for this and other initiatives that are in line with MCC’s values of caring for creation and improving relationships between broader Canadian society and Indigenous peoples. (MCC Photo/Nina Linton)

This history is relevant today as the Ottawa Office has been mandated to look for opportunities to engage in MCC advocacy around Indigenous justice, as MCC seeks to come to terms with its historical identity as an organization founded and supported by Canadian Mennonite settlers on Indigenous land. How do we understand and respond to state violence, such as colonization manifested as control over territory, when it isn’t obviously militarized? Can we use the language of state violence and our complicity to engage with constituents, in a way that engages on a national level, including in regions where extractive and mega-projects are major employers of MCC supporters? Additionally, MCC no longer has workers living with and directly supporting Indigenous communities in Canada, making it more difficult for us to “hear” Indigenous voices, including their diversity and nuances, in the ways that have traditionally shaped our advocacy work. How do we understand and portray nuance, without holding those active relationships? Addressing structural and colonial violence in Canada, reflecting on our own participation in that violence and then engaging in advocacy for Indigenous rights in Canada should be vital elements of MCC’s evolving peace advocacy, even as MCC faces multiple challenges in doing so.

Anna Vogt is director of MCC’s Ottawa Office.

Brody, Hugh. The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers and the Shaping of the World. New York: North Point Press, 2002.

Heinrichs, Steve. Ed. From Wrongs to Rights: How Churches Can Engage the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Winnipeg: Mennonite Church Canada, 2016.

CCM, la crisis climática y comunidades vulnerables

[Articulos individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Primavera 2020 se publican en este blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

Parte del plan estratégico del CCM para los próximos cinco años es “diseñar y evaluar el programa y operaciones del CCM a la luz de nuestro compromiso de cuidar la creación de Dios y acompañar a las comunidades marginadas dañadas por el cambio climático”. ¿Porque es esto importante? En pocas palabras, las personas con las que Jesús nos llamó a servir y caminar son las más afectadas por los desastres causados por un clima cambiante. Las personas pobres, las vulnerables, las personas sin un respaldo de seguridad-son las personas que sufren cuando se producen sequías, cuando aumentan los niveles del mar, cuando los zancudos portadores de enfermedades amplían su área de alcance.

Si bien nadie puede escapar del mal tiempo, algunas personas estamos en mejores condiciones para responder. Como Peter Dula, profesor asociado de religión y cultura en la Eastern Mennonite University, indicó en un resumen reciente de los enfoques Ana bautistas para el cuidado de la creación: “Holanda tiene diques. Bangladesh tiene inundaciones”.

Ebou Dango riega cebollas en un vivero de verduras en Didyr, Burkina Faso. Ella participa en un programa apoyado por el CCM a través de la Oficina de Desarrollo de Iglesias Evangélicas (Office de Développement des Églises Evangélique u ODE) para ayudar a las mujeres agricultoras a adaptarse al cambio climático a través de prácticas agrícolas de conservación, producción de semillas y producción de vegetales fuera de temporada. ODE apoya proyectos de agricultura y seguridad alimentaria en todo el país. (Foto del CCM/James Souder)

Las predicciones de las personas científicas sobre un clima que cambia rápidamente están demostrando ser correctas. Mientras tanto, la crisis climática está afectando a las comunidades vulnerables en las que trabajan el CCM y sus organizaciones asociadas. La crisis climática significa no solo eventos climáticos extremos más numerosos e intensos, como huracanes, inundaciones y sequías-la crisis climática es también uno de los motores (entre otros) de la migración masiva y el conflicto.

El CCM trabaja con comunidades vulnerables para desarrollar aún más su capacidad de adaptarse a la crisis climática mediante la ampliación de innovaciones que les permitan ser más resistentes al cambio climático y ambiental. En Zimbabue, por ejemplo, el CCM apoya sistemas de cultivo intercalados resistentes y agroecológicamente sensatos que aumentan la seguridad alimentaria a través de pruebas experimentales de cereales y legumbres dirigidas por las personas agricultoras y mediante el cultivo de cosechas resistentes a la sequía utilizando técnicas de conservación del suelo y agua como la agricultura de conservación. La construcción de sistemas de extensión agrícola resilientes impulsados por las personas agricultoras aumenta su capacidad para innovar, mejora la fertilidad del suelo, diversifica la producción y mejora la nutrición humana y animal.

A través de estos sistemas de cultivo intercalados innovadores, sostenibles, asequibles, accesibles, replica bles y resistentes, las personas agricultoras a pequeña escala pueden minimizar el impacto de las plagas inducidas por el clima, como el cogollero del maíz, el barrenador del tallo del maíz y las malas hierbas invasoras. Usando la llamada tecnología “apestosa y pegajosa”, basada en una comprensión profunda de la ecología química, la agrobiodiversidad y las interacciones de planta a planta e insecto a planta, las personas agricultoras siembran un campo de cereal con un cultivo intercalado leguminoso repelente (apestoso) como Desmodium uncinatum, con una planta trampa atractiva como el pasto Napier (pegajoso) sembrado como cultivo fronterizo alrededor del cultivo intercalado. A través de esta tecnología, las comunidades vulnerables pueden controlar las plagas y malas hierbas inducidas por el clima de maneras ambientalmente amigables que construyen la solidaridad comunitaria.

Debemos hacer la conexión entre el cambio climático y nuestra teología de la paz. En pocas palabras, nuestros estilos de vida, incluyendo nuestra adicción a los combustibles fósiles, violentan a las personas más vulnerables y marginadas de todo el mundo.

Si bien la resiliencia y la construcción de la capacidad de adaptación son los medios preferidos para abordar el impacto del cambio climático, el CCM reconoce que a veces los impactos están mucho más allá de las capacidades de afrontamiento de las comunidades afectadas. En la región de Afar, en Etiopía, el impacto del cambio climático es tan grave que no es posible cultivar. Los pastoralistas en estas comunidades sobreviven criando animales como cabras y camellos. Desafortunadamente, las sequías crónicas extremas debidas al cambio climático en la región de Afar están provocando sed humana y animal, hambre crónica, desnutrición y, a veces, la muerte.

El CCM está respondiendo en Afar transportando camiones con agua para consumo humano y animal, proporcionando forraje de emergencia y vacunas para animales junto con asistencia alimentaria para humanos. El CCM también está apoyando proyectos sostenibles e innovadores que mejoran el acceso al agua. Así, por ejemplo, el CCM está trabajando con una organización asociada local llamada APDA en la construcción de pozos de vapor en forma de cúpula que cosechan agua del vapor volcánico que se mueve a través de una falla en la tierra y escapa a través de los respiraderos.

Si bien todas las personas sienten el impacto de la crisis climática, las mujeres pobres comúnmente enfrentan mayores riesgos y mayores cargas por el cambio climático. Derechos restringidos a la tierra, canales limitados para influir en las esferas de toma de decisiones políticas y falta de acceso a recursos financieros, capacitación y tecnología, obstaculizan la capacidad de las mujeres para adaptarse al cambio climático. El CCM trabaja para garantizar que las mujeres tengan acceso, control y poder de decisión sobre los recursos del proyecto. El CCM también trabaja con hombres que defienden la igualdad de género y que crean espacios seguros para que los hombres de su comunidad cultiven masculinidades saludables, ayudando a garantizar que los esfuerzos de empoderamiento de las mujeres sean exitosos y bien recibidos. El CCM reconoce que aprovechar la sabiduría y liberar el conocimiento, experiencia y capacidad de las mujeres son esenciales para crear soluciones efectivas al cambio climático en beneficio de todas las personas.

En Canadá y EE. UU., el CCM realiza esfuerzos de mitigación del cambio climático, que incluyen presionar a la iglesia para que adopte una vida simple y cuide la creación de Dios y preste atención a los impactos de la crisis climática, particularmente en las personas pobres y vulnerables. El CCM también aboga por políticas gubernamentales que busquen desacelerar la crisis climática. El CCM se asoció recientemente con Eastern Mennonite University y Goshen College para fundar el Centro de Soluciones Climáticas Sostenibles para fomentar el pensamiento y acción dentro de las comunidades religiosas en la mitigación del cambio climático.

David Mutunga está de pie entre los campos de maíz en Lyuuni, Kenia, que se plantaron de forma convencional en lugar de con métodos de agricultura de conservación. No espera producción de este campo. Obtendrá más producción de sus campos de agricultura de conservación. Las prácticas agrícolas de conservación incluyen la cobertura del suelo, alteración mínima del suelo y rotación y diversificación de cultivos. (Foto del CCM/Matthew Lester)

Como Ana bautistas, ha llegado el momento de reconocer que una respuesta fiel a nuestros hermanos y hermanas de todo el mundo significa abordar las causas profundas de nuestra crisis climática. Debemos hacer la conexión entre el cambio climático y nuestra teología de la paz. En pocas palabras, nuestros estilos de vida, incluyendo nuestra adicción a los combustibles fósiles, violentan a las personas más vulnerables y marginadas de todo el mundo. Como está abundantemente claro a lo largo de la narración bíblica, a Dios le importa toda la creación, especialmente las personas más vulnerables entre nosotros y nosotras. ¡Qué podamos hacer lo mismo!

Eric Kurtz es director ejecutivo de MCC Great Lakes. Vurayayi Pugeni es director de área para programas del CCM en África meridional.

Tema sobre “Respondiendo al cambio climático’: lntersections: Teoría y práctica trimestral del CCM. 5/3 (Verano 2017). Disponible en:

Sitio web: Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions

Dula, Peter. ‘Anabaptist Environmental Ethics: A Review Essay.” Mennonite Quarterly Review. 94/1 (January 2020): 7-37.

MCC, the climate crisis and vulnerable communities


[Individual articles from the Spring 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

Part of MCC’s strategic plan for the coming five years is to “design and assess MCC’s program and operations in light of our commitment to care for God’s creation and accompany marginalized communities harmed by climate change.” Why is this important? Put simply, the people that Jesus called us to serve and walk with are the ones on the receiving end of disasters caused by a changing climate. The poor, the vulnerable, the people without a safety net—these are the folks who suffer when droughts happen, when sea levels rise, when mosquitos carrying disease expand their range.

While none of us can escape severe weather, some of us are better able to respond. As Peter Dula, associate professor of religion and culture at Eastern Mennonite University, observed in a recent summary of Anabaptist approaches to creation care: “Holland has dikes. Bangladesh has floods.”

Scientists’ predictions about a rapidly changing climate are proving correct. The climate crisis, meanwhile, is affecting the vulnerable communities in which MCC and its partners work. The climate crisis means not only more numerous and intense extreme weather events, like hurricanes, floods and droughts—the climate crisis is also one driver (among others) of mass migration and conflict.

MCC works with vulnerable communities to further develop their capacity to adapt to the climate crisis by scaling up innovations that enable them to become more resilient to climate and environmental changes. In Zimbabwe, for example, MCC supports resilient and agroecologically sound intercropping farming systems that increase food security through farmer-led cereal legume trials and by growing drought-resistant crops using soil and water conservation techniques like conservation agriculture. Building resilient farmer-driven agriculture extension systems increases farmers’ capacity to innovate, enhances improved soil fertility, diversifies production and improves human and animal nutrition.

Ebou Dango waters onions in a vegetable nursery in Didyr, Burkina Faso. She participates in a program supported by MCC through partner Office of Development of Evangelical Churches (Office de Développement des Églises Evangélique or ODE) to help women farmers adapt to climate change through conservation agriculture practices, seed production and off-season vegetable production. ODE supports agriculture and food security projects across the country. (MCC Photo/James Souder)

Through these innovative, sustainable, affordable, accessible, replicable and resilient intercropping farming systems, smallholder farmers can minimize the impact of climate-induced pests such as the fall armyworm, the maize stalk borer and invasive striga weeds. Using so-called “stinky sticky” technology, based on in-depth understanding of chemical ecology, agrobiodiversity and plant-to-plant and insect-to-plant interactions, farmers plant a cereal crop with a repellent leguminous intercrop (stinky) such as Desmodium uncinatum, with an attractive trap plant such as Napier grass (sticky) planted as a border crop around the intercrop. Through this technology, vulnerable communities can control climate-induced pests and weeds in environmentally friendly ways that build community solidarity.

While resilience and adaptive capacity building are the preferred means to address the impact of climate change, MCC recognizes that sometimes the impacts are far beyond the coping capacities of affected communities. In the Afar region of Ethiopia the impact of climate change is so severe that growing crops is not possible. The pastoralists in these communities survive by keeping animals such as goats and camels. Unfortunately, the extreme chronic droughts due to climate change in the Afar region are leading to human and animal thirst, chronic hunger, malnutrition and sometimes death.

We must connect the dots between climate change and our theology of peacemaking. Simply put, our lifestyle, and our addiction to fossil fuels, do violence to the most vulnerable and marginalized people around the globe.

MCC is responding in Afar by trucking in water for human and animal consumption, providing emergency fodder and vaccines for animals alongside food assistance for humans. MCC is also supporting sustainable innovative projects that improve water access. So, for example, MCC is working with a local partner called APDA on constructing dome-shaped steam wells that harvest water from the volcanic steam that moves up through a fault line in the earth and escapes through vents.

While all people feel the impact of the climate crisis, poor women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from climate change. Restricted land rights, limited channels to influence political decision-making spheres and lack of access to financial resources, training and technology all hinder women’s ability to adapt to climate change. MCC works to ensure that women have access to and control and decision-making power over project resources. MCC also works with men who champion gender equality and who create safe spaces for men in their community to cultivate healthy masculinities, helping to ensure that women’s empowerment efforts are successful and well-received. MCC recognizes that tapping into the wisdom and unleashing the knowledge, experience and capability of women are essential to craft effective climate change solutions for the benefit of all.

In Canada and the U.S., MCC undertakes climate change mitigation efforts, including pressing the church to embrace simple living and care for God’s creation and to pay attention to the impacts of the climate crisis, particularly on the poor and vulnerable. MCC also advocates for government policies that seek to slow down the climate crisis. MCC recently partnered with Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College in founding the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions to advance thinking and action within faith communities on climate change mitigation.

David Mutunga is standing in cornfields in Lyuuni, Kenya, that were planted the conventional way instead of with conservation agriculture methods. He does not expect yield from this crop. He will get more yield from his conservation agriculture fields. Conservation agriculture practices include soil cover, minimum soil disturbance and crop rotation and diversification. (MCC photo/Matthew Lester)

The time has come for us, as Anabaptists, to recognize that a faithful response to our brothers and sisters around the world means addressing the root causes of our climate crisis. We must connect the dots between climate change and our theology of peacemaking. Simply put, our lifestyles, including our addiction to fossil fuels, do violence to the most vulnerable and marginalized people around the globe. As is abundantly clear throughout the biblical narrative, God cares about all of creation, especially the most vulnerable among us. May we do the same.

Eric Kurtz is executive director for MCC Great Lakes. Vurayayi Pugeni is area director for MCC programs in southern Africa.

Theme issue on “Responding to Climate Change.” Intersections: MCC Theory and Practice
Quarterly. 5/3 (Summer 2017). Available at

Website: Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions

Dula, Peter. “Anabaptist Environmental Ethics: A Review Essay.” Mennonite Quarterly Review. 94/1 (January 2020): 7-37.

Iniciativas de cuidado de la creación y sostenibilidad del CCM a lo largo de las décadas

[Articulos individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Primavera 2020 se publican en este blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

La preocupación por el medio ambiente y el respeto por la creación de Dios han sido parte del enfoque del CCM en su trabajo desde 1920. A lo largo de las décadas, la conciencia del CCM sobre el ritmo acelerado de la degradación ambiental, las resoluciones tomadas por las denominaciones Anabautistas y las historias de las organizaciones asociadas sobre los impactos de la crisis climática en sus comunidades han estimulado esfuerzos para hacer posible que las comunidades se adapten al cambio climático y lograr el compromiso de los constituyentes a modificar sus estilos de vida para reducir los impactos ambientales nocivos y ampliar los esfuerzos de incidencia.

Personas agricultoras en Koti, Burkina Faso, se reúnen para compartir actualizaciones con el personal del CCM/ODE y mostrar su cosecha de vegetales durante la estación seca. La organización asociada del CCM, ODE, ha creado un espacio de huerto donde 100 personas agricultoras, 50 hombres y 50 mujeres, cultivan vegetales durante la temporada seca. Los huertos se mantienen utilizando agua de cuatro pozos, con planes de expandirse a ocho pozos. (Foto del CCM/James Souder)

Programa: Durante muchas décadas, el CCM ha cuidado activamente la creación al promover la reforestación y conservación del suelo en su programación de agricultura
y seguridad alimentaria. A partir de 1994, el CCM también comenzó a incorporar sistemáticamente el cuidado de la creación y la responsabilidad ambiental en la planificación y evaluación del programa. Este enfoque se formalizó en 1999 cuando
la junta del CCM adoptó una política de administración ambiental y planificación de programas que articulaba las expectativas básicas para su programa internacional. Esto incluyó la evaluación del impacto ambiental de proyectos, la identificación de problemas ambientales prioritarios nacionales y regionales y la realización de evaluaciones de programas que examinaron cómo se incluyeron las consideraciones ambientales en la planificación. Se desarrolló una Guía Ambiental para la planificación de programas con el fin de brindar orientación sobre cómo poner en práctica las políticas de mayordomía ambiental del CCM en todo el programa del CCM.

En marzo de 2010, el CCM adoptó un conjunto de principios operativos, o valores centrales, que configuran el programa y operaciones del CCM. Esto incluía un compromiso de actuar de manera sostenible. “Llamado a vivir de manera simple y ser mayordomo de la creación de Dios, el CCM busca actuar de manera que promueva la sostenibilidad ambiental, social y económica”, la junta binacional del CCM proclamó. Como parte de cumplir con este compromiso de actuar de manera sostenible, el personal del programa del CCM revisó y aprobó una herramienta de evaluación ambiental para usar en la planificación, monitoreo y evaluación de sus programas de ayuda, desarrollo y construcción de paz.

El enfoque inicial de los esfuerzos de cuidado de la creación y sostenibilidad ambiental del CCM en proyectos de reforestación y conservación del suelo se ha expandido en los últimos años a otras actividades para ayudar a las comunidades a adaptarse a los riesgos relacionados con la crisis climática, incluyendo acceso al agua potable y redes de respaldo estacionales, introducción de cultivos y razas de ganado, apoyo a la diversificación de los medios de vida, promoción de construcción de casas resistentes a los peligros y ayuda a las comunidades a prepararse para los desastres.

Compromiso público: El compromiso del CCM con las personas Ana bautistas en EE. UU. y Canadá en el cuidado de la creación y sostenibilidad ambiental comenzó con la puesta en marcha en 1976 del libro de cocina More-with-Less, con el objetivo de ayudar a las personas cristianas a comer mejor y consumir menos de los recursos alimentarios del mundo. En 1982, el CCM estableció una Oficina de Educación Global en su sede de Akron, Pensilvania. Si bien las responsabilidades educativas de este puesto finalmente se fusionaron con otros departamentos, el objetivo de la oficina era educar a pastores y congregaciones en los EE. UU. y Canadá sobre cómo sus estilos de vida afectaban la tierra y estaban vinculados a nivel mundial.

El CCM sigue comprometido a ayudar a las comunidades a adaptarse a los impactos de los climas que cambian rápidamente, a llamar a las personas Anabautistas y a otros en Canadá y EE. UU. a reducir los impactos ambientales dañinos de sus estilos de vida y abogar por políticas que promuevan la sostenibilidad ambientalty.

En 1989, las Juntas Generales de la Iglesia Menonita y la Iglesia Menonita de la Conferencia General adoptó una declaración, “Mayordomía de la tierra-Resolución sobre Asuntos del Medio Ambiente y Fe” que llamó al CCM en EE.UU. y Canadá a “buscar instrucciones políticas de los diversos cuerpos de la iglesia Menonita para promover la mayordomía de la creación”. Como respuesta, los miembros de la junta del CCM incluyeron el cuidado de la creación como una de sus tres principales prioridades en la reunión anual del CCM de ese año y pidieron al personal que continuara abordando las preocupaciones ambientales desde una perspectiva bíblica. En respuesta a este llamado de las iglesias Menonitas y de la junta del CCM, el personal desarrolló una variedad de recursos en la década de 1990 para individuos, familias e iglesias relacionadas con la atención de la creación, incluyendo:

  • Earthkeepers, un estudio de 1991 para individuos e iglesias que vinculaba la ecoteología con cuestiones de militarismo, guerra y sistemas económicos;
  • la serie Trek de tres partes, publicada entre 1996 y 2004, con reflexiones y sugerencias para que individuos y familias vivieran de manera simple y con conciencia de su huella ecológica; y
  • el WaterWorks Toolkit, un plan de estudios para iglesias que destacó la conservación del agua, publicado en 2004.

Varios CCM también emprendieron iniciativas de participación pública en el cuidado de la creación. El CCM Ontario empleó una persona coordinadora de cuidado de la creación de 2006 a 2011 que se centró en alentar a las escuelas e iglesias Anabautistas a explorar su impacto en la creación e instalar paneles solares como parte de una iniciativa de energía verde. El CCM Saskatchewan comenzó una iniciativa de blog y taller llamada “No Waste Wednesdays” en 201 O que se extendió hasta 2013, enfocada en alentar a los constituyentes y al público a adoptar conductas y éticas responsables con el medio ambiente. Más recientemente, en 2016, el CCM EE.UU. se asoció con Eastern Mennonite University y Goshen College para establecer el Centro de Soluciones Climáticas Sostenibles para movilizar a las personas Ana bautistas en torno a la mitigación e incidencia del cambio climático. En 2018, el Centro realizó una gira de oradores dirigida a iglesias, universidades y organizaciones Anabautistas que contó con tres miembros del personal y asociados internacionales del CCM que compartieron sobre los impactos del cambio climático en sus comunidades.

Incidencia: Los esfuerzos de incidencia del CCM relacionados con el cambio climático
y sostenibilidad han sido guiados por la programación del CCM y conectados a su participación pública. A partir de la década de 1970, la oficina del CCM en Washington fue uno de los primeros miembros del Grupo de Trabajo de Ecología y Energía Comunitaria del Personal lnterreligioso de Washington. En la década de 1990, la Oficina de Washington centró los esfuerzos de incidencia en promover estándares de eficiencia de combustible, uso sostenible de tierras públicas y una política de energía que abordara el cambio climático. En 2001, la Oficina de Washington lanzó su Guía para el Medio Ambiente, que proporcionaba reflexiones bíblicas y pasos de acción para las personas Anabautistas preocupadas y otros. La educación de constituyentes incluyó el seminario de primavera de 2003 centrado en la incidencia para el cuidado de la creación. En los últimos diez años, en respuesta a los efectos del cambio climático y la degradación ambiental en las comunidades en las que trabajan las organizaciones asociadas del CCM, la Oficina de Washington ha continuado su trabajo de incidencia ambiental con un fuerte enfoque en el cambio climático, asistencia internacional para la adaptación y financiación adecuada y fuertes salvaguardas para el Fondo Verde para el Clima. Además, la incidencia se ha centrado en los impactos ambientales de las cercas y muros que se están construyendo a lo largo de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México.

Ntate Marou Lenkoe, un agricultor en Makilenyaneng, Lesoto, se encuentra en uno de los cultivos que plantó utilizando los métodos agrícolas de conservación que aprendió como participante en el taller “Farming God’s Way” . Growing Nations, una organización asociada del CCM, organiza talleres para enseñar métodos de cultivo con un enfoque bíblico basado en el cuidado de la creación para ayudar a contrarrestar los efectos del cambio climático y redución de las precipitaciones. (Foto/Barry Mann)

El compromiso del CCM con el cuidado de la creación y la sostenibilidad ambiental no es nuevo. Si bien el enfoque del CCM ha cambiado a lo largo de las décadas en respuesta a la creciente conciencia de la degradación ambiental y las voces de las organizaciones asociadas afectadas por la crisis climática, el CCM sigue comprometido a ayudar a las comunidades a adaptarse a los impactos de los climas que cambian rápidamente, a llamar a las personas Anabautistas y a otros en Canadá y Estados Unidos a reducir los impactos ambientales dañinos de sus estilos de vida y abogar por políticas que promuevan la sostenibilidad ambiental.

Meara Kwee es la coordinadora de protección del CCM, con sede en Akron, Pennsylvania.

Jantzi, Jeanne Zimmerly. Parent Trek: Nurturing Creativity and Care in our Children. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001.

Longacre, Doris Janzen. More­with-Less Cookbook. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1976.

Meyer, Art and Jocele Meyer. Earthkeepers: Environmental Perspectives on Hunger, Poverty, & lnjustice. Scottdale: PA: Herald Press, 1991.

Moyer, Joanne. Earth Trek: Celebrating and Sustaining God’s Creation. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2004.

Schrock-Shenk, Dave. Ed. Basic Trek: Venture into a World of Enough. Scottdale, PA:
Herald Press, 2002.

MCC creation care and sustainability initiatives over the decades


[Individual articles from the Spring 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

Concern for the environment and respect for God’s creation have been part of MCC’s approach to its work since 1920. Over the decades, MCC’s awareness of the rapid pace of environmental degradation, resolutions taken by Anabaptist denominations and stories from partners about the impacts of the climate crisis on their communities have spurred efforts to enable communities to adapt to climate change, engage constituents in modifying their lifestyles to reduce harmful environmental impacts and expand advocacy efforts.

Program: For many decades, MCC has actively cared for creation by promoting reforestation and soil conservation in its agriculture and food security programming. Starting in 1994, MCC also began to systematically incorporate creation care and environmental responsibility into program planning and evaluation. This approach was formalized in 1999 when the MCC board adopted an environmental stewardship and program planning policy that articulated basic expectations for its international program. This included assessing projects for their environmental impact, identifying national and regional priority environmental issues and conducting program evaluations that examined how environmental considerations were included in planning. An Environmental Guide for Program Planning was developed to provide guidance on how to put MCC’s environmental stewardship policies into practice across MCC program.

In March 2010, MCC adopted a set of operating principles, or core values, that shape MCC’s program and operations. This included a commitment to act sustainably. “Called to live simply and to be a steward of God’s creation, MCC seeks to act in ways which promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability,” MCC’s binational board proclaimed. As part of living into this commitment to act sustainably, MCC program staff revised and approved an environmental assessment tool for use in planning, monitoring and evaluating its relief, development and peacebuilding programs.

Public engagement: MCC’s engagement with Anabaptists in the U.S. and Canada on creation care and environmental sustainability began with the 1976 commissioning of the More-with-Less cookbook, with the goal of helping Christians to eat better and consume less of the world’s food resources. In 1982, MCC established a Global Education Desk in its Akron, Pennsylvania, office. While the education responsibilities of this position were eventually merged into other departments, the desk’s goal was to educate pastors and congregations in the U.S. and Canada about how their lifestyles affected the earth and were linked globally.

Farmers in Koti, Burkina Faso, meet to share updates with MCC/ODE staff and showcase their vegetable harvest during dry season. MCC partner ODE has created a garden space where 100 farmers, 50 men and 50 women, grow vegetables during the off-season. The gardens are sustained using water from four wells, with plans to expand to eight wells. (MCC Photo/James Souder)

The early focus of MCC’s creation care and environmental sustainability efforts on reforestation and soil conservation projects has expanded in recent years to other activities to help communities adapt to climate crisis-related risks, including providing access to potable water and seasonal safety nets, introducing crops and livestock breeds, supporting livelihood diversification, promoting hazard resistant shelter construction and helping communities prepare for disasters.

In 1989, the General Boards of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church adopted a statement, “Stewardship of the Earth—Resolution on Environment and Faith Issues,” which called MCC in the U.S. and Canada to “seek policy directions from the several Mennonite church bodies in promoting creation stewardship.” MCC board members responded by including creation care as one of its three top priorities at MCC’s annual meeting that year and called for staff to continue to address environmental concerns from a biblical perspective. Responding to this call from Mennonite churches and the MCC board, staff developed a variety of resources in the 1990s for individuals, families and churches related to creation care, including:

  • Earthkeepers, a 1991 study for individuals and churches that linked ecotheology to questions of militarism, war and economic systems;
  • the three-part Trek series, released between 1996 and 2004, with reflections and suggestions for individuals and families to live simply and with mindfulness of their ecological footprint; and
  • the WaterWorks Toolkit, a curriculum for churches highlighting water conservation, released in 2004

Several MCCs also undertook public engagement initiatives on creation care. MCC Ontario employed a creation care coordinator from 2006 to 2011 who focused on encouraging Anabaptist schools and churches to explore their impact on creation and to install solar panels as part of a green energy initiative. MCC Saskatchewan started a blog and workshop initiative called “No Waste Wednesdays” in 2010 that ran through 2013, focused on encouraging constituents and the public to adopt environmentally responsible ethics and behaviors. More recently, in 2016 MCC U.S. partnered with Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College to establish the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions to mobilize Anabaptists around climate change mitigation and advocacy. In 2018, the Center conducted a speakers’ tour targeting Anabaptist churches, universities and organizations that featured three international MCC staff and partners sharing about the impacts of climate change on their communities.

MCC remains committed to help communities adapt to the impacts of rapidly changing climates, to call Anabaptists and others in Canada and the U.S. to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of their lifestyles and to advocate for policies that promote environmental sustainability.

Advocacy: MCC’s advocacy efforts related to climate change and sustainability have been guided by MCC’s programming and connected to its public engagement. Beginning in the 1970s, MCC’s Washington Office was an early member of the Washington Interreligious Staff Community Energy and Ecology Working Group. In the 1990s, the Washington Office focused advocacy efforts on promoting fuel efficiency standards, sustainable use of public lands and an energy policy that addressed climate change. In 2001, the Washington Office released its Guide to the Environment, providing biblical reflections and action steps for concerned Anabaptists and others.

Constituent education included the 2003 spring seminar’s focus on creation care advocacy. In the past ten years, in response to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on the communities in which MCC’s partners work, the Washington Office has continued its environmental advocacy work with a strong focus on climate change, international adaptation assistance and adequate funding and strong safeguards for the Green Climate Fund. Additionally, advocacy has focused on the environmental impacts of the fences and walls being built along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ntate Marou Lenkoe, a farmer in Makilenyaneng, Lesotho, stands in one of the crops he grew using the conservation agricultural methods he learned as a participant in a “Farming God’s Way” workshop. MCC partner Growing Nations runs the workshops to teach farming methods with a biblically-based creation care focus to help counter the effects of climate change and reduced rainfall. (Photo/Barry Mann)

MCC’s commitment to creation care and environmental sustainability is not new. While MCC’s focus has shifted over the decades in response to growing awareness of environmental degradation and the voices of partners affected by the climate crisis, MCC remains committed to help communities adapt to the impacts of rapidly changing climates, to call Anabaptists and others in Canada and the U.S. to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of their lifestyles and to advocate for policies that promote environmental sustainability.

Meara Kwee is MCC’s protection coordinator, based in Akron, Pennsylvania.

Jantzi, Jeanne Zimmerly. Parent Trek: Nurturing Creativity and Care in our Children. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001.

Longacre, Doris Janzen. Morewith- Less Cookbook. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1976.

Meyer, Art and Jocele Meyer. Earthkeepers: Environmental Perspectives on Hunger,
Poverty, & Injustice. Scottdale: PA: Herald Press, 1991.

Moyer, Joanne. Earth Trek: Celebrating and Sustaining God’s Creation. Scottdale, PA:
Herald Press, 2004.

Schrock-Shenk, Dave. Ed. Basic Trek: Venture into a World of Enough. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2002.

Reflections from Standing Rock

[Individual articles from the Winter 2018 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

I recently led college students in an exercise comparing two fascinating maps (see Learn More sidebar for links). The first, a map of the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) near the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, was created by contributors to the Decolonial Atlas website. The place names are written in the Lakota language, with the four directions represented by the medicine wheel. South is at the top and north at the bottom, the reverse of what I’m used to seeing, yet a common Lakota custom. The second is a map of the DAPL route through North Dakota created by Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of the pipeline already carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale in North Dakota to Illinois refineries. North is at the top. County and state boundaries are clearly marked. The DAPL path and terminal locations are prominent, with other place names barely legible. A comparison of these two maps is a compelling study in orientation and disorientation, what is being communicated and to whom and what map-makers view as important and unimportant.

This history on Lakota land, like other histories around the world, unveils the colonizing perspective: land and water are resources to be exploited and extracted

In September of 2016, I went to the Standing Rock encampments formed in nonviolent resistance to DAPL as part of a delegation of settler Mennonites from the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition. Upon arrival, my map of the world was turned upside down (or perhaps right-side up). I was no longer in white-dominant space. There were different social protocols to follow as well as different understandings of the physical-spiritual world. Kitchen volunteers served food first to elders as a sign of respect, then to those of us waiting in line. The fire at the center of camp was not for chit-chatting around like a bonfire—it was a sacred prayer fire for offering tobacco.

Prayer was physical and a source of power, embodied in ceremony, daily prayer walks to the site of DAPL construction and even actions like chaining oneself to construction equipment. “They’re afraid of our prayers,” one woman told me matter-of-factly, explaining why the state police and DAPL private security forces were not disrupting the camp that week. In disarming contrast with the dominant culture where almost nothing is free, the whole camp operated by a gift economy. No money was exchanged and everything was shared, from food to supplies. When we arrived into camp at nightfall, we found that a woman had already set up a tent for us. She welcomed us, saying, “I knew people would come tonight who needed a place to stay.” We were camped on the frontlines of destruction, and yet were in decolonizing territory, a place undergoing deep healing from centuries of capitalism and colonization.

The most striking difference between decolonizing territory and the world to which I was accustomed was how people talked about water. Michael Sharpfish, a 23-year old descendant of Sitting Bull, told how he came to protect the Missouri River because water is sacred. He knows how precious water is because he grew up on a reservation without running water. Michael repeated the simple phrase that had become the rallying cry at Standing Rock, “Water is life: Mni Wiconi!” “We are the river, and the river is us,” Donna Brave Bull Allard wrote about why she founded the Sacred Stone Camp that prayed the other Standing Rock camps into existence and resistance. “Why would we hurt our sister, or our very selves, by channeling toxic oil underneath the river? We cannot be separated from water; she is sacred and very much alive, along with the rest of the earth.”

At Sacred Stone camp, I realized that the destructive disconnect between current colonizing and Indigenous perceptions of the world is nothing new to the Lakota people. They remember the long history of conquest as if it happened yesterday, just as they still remember the names their ancestors gave to the land and sacred sites. The name for Sacred Stone camp comes from the Lakota name for the river, Íŋyaŋwakağapi Wakpá, “Stone-Make-For-Themselves River,” so named because of the round stones that once formed at the confluence with the Missouri River before the Missouri was dammed. The people called these stones Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí, “Sacred Stones,” using them in prayer and ceremony and viewing them as enspirited, part of all our relations, like the river, plants and animals.

When European explorers and colonizers first came to the region, they also saw the rivers’ spherical stones shaped by the churning waters where they met the Missouri River. But instead of sacred stones, what did they see? Stones shaped like cannonballs. They saw stones akin to ammunition for war, so they re-named Íŋyaŋwakağapi Wakpá the Cannonball River. Sacred stones or cannonballs?

Perspective shapes practice, from the re-naming of the Cannonball River to the 1874 expedition that led to a gold rush and the U.S. government’s illegal seizure of the Black Hills (an area long held as sacred by the Lakota people) to the more recent damming of the Missouri River by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s. The hydropower dam flooded ancestral burial grounds and medicinal plant harvesting areas. The people say many elders died of heartbreak when they saw the flooded lands. This history on Lakota land unveils the colonizing perspective in which land and water are resources to be exploited and extracted. From an Indigenous perspective, land and water are living relatives to be respected and protected, sacred gifts of Creator inseparable from our very lives. Two vastly different perceptions, two very different maps of the world.

This history of difference in perception dates back to the Doctrine of Discovery, if not before, as globalized imperialism was birthed in Europe under the blessing of Constantinian Christianity. The Doctrine of Discovery was and is a profound invalidation of Indigenous cosmologies and ways of relating to the other-than-human world developed over centuries of learning how to live in life-sustaining balance. The United States, having assumed ownership of Indigenous lands through the “right of discovery,” imposed and continues to force its abstract maps and perceptions of the world upon already-named and intimately known homelands. And now profit-driven corporations like those building DAPL are given free reign to do the same, with perilous consequences. As climate change, resource depletion and the loss of biological and cultural diversity around the world testify, the colonized maps cemented upon the world are suffocating all life. Yet even cement can be cracked.

Surely one step toward dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery will be dismantling our internalized and externalized destructive maps by embracing a more life-giving way of seeing the world. For those of us who are not Indigenous, I pose the questions that my time at Standing Rock offered me: Will we wake up and perceive all Earth as sacred and alive? Will we allow ourselves to be disoriented and reoriented by Indigenous ways of seeing and being? Will we join Indigenous people, water and Earth herself in cracking the concrete of industrial civilization to make way for healing, decolonizing territories?

Katerina Friesen lives in traditional Yokut land in Fresno, California. She edited the Study Guide for the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition, available for order or download at

Learn more

Brave Bull Allard, LaDonna. “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre.” Yes! Magazine. Available at

The Decolonial Atlas—Dakota Access Pipeline Indigenous Protest Map. Available at

Energy Transfer Partners’ Map of Dakota Access Pipeline route from North American Shale Magazine. Available at: