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Faculty contribute to two groundbreaking books

January 18th, 2021

Cover of Colorizing Restorative Justice

Three Bethel College faculty had roles in two books published in 2020 that are the first of their kind.

Sheryl Wilson, executive director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) and a faculty member in Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies, is the author of a chapter in Colorizing Restorative Justice: Voicing Our Realities (Living Justice Press).

The book is a collection of 18 essays by Wilson and 19 other Restorative Justice (RJ) practitioners of color), edited by Edward C. Valandra (Lakota name Wanbli Wapháha Hoksíla).

This first-ever volume by RJ practitioners and scholars of color has as a goal to begin addressing issues of racism and colonization baked into RJ and Restorative Practices (RP).

“Whereas one might think that the RJ movement would shine in championing racial and social justice,” Valandra writes, “the movement has actually been silent, afraid and conforming – complacent with institutional and structural harms.

“If RJ as a movement does not address racism and colonization, then, as [noted author and practitioner] Fania Davis warns, [RJ and RP] will [themselves] function in racist and colonizing ways, because that is the default.”

Wilson’s chapter is entitled “Calling Out Whiteness.”

“While I felt the support of many of my White restorative justice counterparts and mentors,” Wilson writes, “I found it difficult over the years to digest that … we [practitioners of color] still have been isolated, working in predominately White systems.

“This discussion is not new in many White/White-dominated fields where People of Color carve out a living daily. … When I work with White practitioners, it disturbs me that we are often serving diverse communities and yet we don’t accurately resemble them.”

The book also includes a chapter by Mennonite Central Committee Central States director Michelle Armster, Central States staff person Erica Littlewolf and Christianne Paras, “Burn the Bridge,” which takes exception to the claim that RJ practices are rooted in indigenous ways.

The other publication examines Mennonite involvement in and relationship to the Holocaust.

Mark Jantzen, professor of history, and John Thiesen, archivist at the Mennonite Library and Archives, are the editors of European Mennonites and the Holocaust (University of Toronto Press).

The book stems from the “Mennonites and the Holocaust” conference that Bethel hosted in March 2018, the third such event (after conferences in Germany in 2015 and Paraguay in 2017) organized around scholarly consideration of the experiences and activities of European Mennonites during the Nazi Holocaust.

The Germany conference led to a self-published volume in German, and the Paraguay one to an issue of Mennonite Quarterly Review, published at Goshen (Ind.) College. European Mennonites and the Holocaust is the first book-length, English-language treatment of the topic.

It is the inaugural volume in the new University of Toronto Press series Transnational Mennonite Studies, edited by Aileen Friesen, and is published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“We worked hard to cover geographic areas” in considering what should be included, Jantzen said. That means chapters that examine events in the Netherlands, Germany, occupied Poland/Prussia and Ukraine. Chapter authors represent those places, along with the United States and Canada.

The German-speaking Mennonites who lived in central Europe during the Second World War were neighbors to Jews and to the Nazi death camps, not only witnessing the destruction of the European Jews but in some cases benefiting from or even enabling it.

When the war ended, these same Mennonites became refugees, with thousands resettling in the United States and Canada, as well as Latin America.

Their history vis-à-vis European Jews was forgotten (often deliberately), leading to a myth of Mennonite innocence, ignorance and even persecution and suffering “equal to” that of the Jews.

European Mennonites and the Holocaust identifies a significant number of Mennonite perpetrators, along with a small number of Mennonites who helped Jews survive, examining the context in which they acted,” states the University of Toronto press blurb. “In some cases, theology led them to accept or reject Nazi ideas. In others, Mennonites chose a closer embrace of German identity as a strategy to improve their standing with Germans or for material benefit.”

Jantzen says “a lot here is new” for those who don’t read German or have not been part of the academic conferences over the last several years. “There are a couple of chapters based on KGB archives in the Ukraine that are fairly recently accessible,” he added. “There’s a lot more to do.

“This book was done with a major academic press, in association with [what’s considered] the Holocaust museum [in the United States], and includes scholars from five different countries. It’s a major international volume of cutting-edge research that is carefully documented in many countries’ archives.”

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #26 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, and earned its third-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Gold Award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2020-21; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and is #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities named by lendEDU.com as “Best for Financial Aid,” as well as #23 “Safest College Towns in the U.S.,” ranked by lendEDU.com for 2020-21. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.