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Developing trust of authorities

Compared with Latin American societies, Canada has a significantly larger number of officials and/or professionals who take direct interest in our personal lives. As there is not an equivalent experience for most Low German Mennonites from Latin America, these professionals and officials are usually understood as being synonymous with the authority figures they are accustomed to and are therefore not to be trusted. Low German Mennonites do not trust police and military personnel because military corruption has been prevalent in their Latin American experiences. Given this history, it should not be surprising to service providers when they feel they are met with resistance from community members.



Low German Mennonites desire respect, but many anticipate they will not receive it due to their lack of education, their religious beliefs or their cultural norms. Feeling disrespected produces resistance.

Developing a spirit of collaboration

Fostering a sense of mutuality with Low German Mennonites is integral to the work service providers do. When the purposes, mandates or goals of service providers are in apparent conflict with Low German Mennonite paradigms, it is helpful to approach these situations with a spirit of collaboration and understanding. Using a humble posture, ask curious questions for the purposes of understanding. Ask questions that allow individuals to explain their positions; demonstrate an interest in learning and understanding. After this, explain your own position. Begin with our mutual beliefs as we have more in common than we think. Even if agreement is not reached, it is helpful to come to an understanding about the nature of future interactions. This fosters the Low German Mennonites’ sense of freedom to make their own choices as well as an understanding of what effect their choices will have in their interactions with the broader society. Though disagreement may remain, the potential for conflict is decreased when mutuality is fostered.

Understanding Low German “authority”

Low German Mennonite cultures are traditionally patriarchal with much deference given to the authority structures within their culture. The ultimate authority is God’s authority and, as the Mennonite tradition exemplifies, when government or political authority is perceived to contradict God’s authority, they are committed to adhering to God’s authority. This is evidenced by Low German Mennonites’ willingness to migrate to countries in an effort to maintain their commitment to God’s leading. Church leaders have authority in their communities, and adults have authority in their homes. Therefore, when service providers engage with Low German Mennonite communities, we may run the risk of offending the communities because we represent what is perceived to be illegitimate authority making demands and expectations. It can be helpful to engage with the established hierarchical structures within the Low German Mennonite culture. Developing relationships with church ministerial representatives and elders can be helpful when attempting to obtain “buy-in” for the service that you offer.

Gender and parental roles

While living in the colonies in Mexico and South America, women and children are protected from interactions with the mainstream community. This practice is often not strictly adhered to upon their migration to Canada. Traditional gender roles and respect for/deference to elders are maintained within many Low German families. This is often notable in children accepting direction from parents and older siblings without question and in wives seeking their husband’s approval before making decisions. This practice is not to be misunderstood as intimate partner violence, as women generally have an opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions with their husbands prior to a decision being made. This social order is another reason that some Low German Mennonite people feel that service providers give directives and have disrupted the social order within the family and community. Service providers may be viewed as positioning themselves in the parental role, leaving adult Low German Mennonites to feel as though they have been placed back in the role of a child.