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BY Jim Cosgrove
BUENOS AIRES—A small religious settlement in Argentina has agreed to start negotiations with the authorities about an education law that they claim threatens their way of life.
The Mennonite community in Guatrache, La Pampa-which has 1,300 inhabitants-was founded in 1985. Mennonites trace their roots back to the 16th century Dutch reformer, Menno Simons, who committed himself and his followers to a life of non-violence, in which they refrained from carrying weapons, swearing oaths, and holding government office.
The new federal law on education introduces a common curriculum in Spanish for all schools in the country. However, the Mennonite school curriculum, entirely in German, is based on the Bible translation by Martin Luther and has remained largely unchanged for 400 years.
Representatives of the Mennonite settlement have now agreed with the authorities in the province of La Pampa to take part in a joint committee with government representatives to try to resolve the issue.
Juan Gutierrez, a Mennonite pastor from Buenos Aires said, “They don't want to lose their identity, nor do they wish to be invaded by consumerism.”
Support for the position of the Mennonite settlers has come from many Argentine farmers in the region.
One farmer said: “They are honest and are very disciplined. Their children have very good manners and behave well.”
“What are we going to teach them?” another said. “They have no prostitution, nor single mothers, nor drug problems. They keep to their word. We don't.” (ENI)