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Alannah DeJong

A Truer Kind of Love

By | 2017, Europe | One Comment

The past couple of weeks in Austria, Slovakia, and Germany have left me grateful for the opportunity to gain a new understanding of WWII as I interact with material remains of its history. A few days ago, we visited a bunker which had been constructed for Hitler’s use, and was never completed. It has now been transformed into a museum called Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg, which focuses on Hitler’s regime and rise to power. Much of the information offered at the museum spoke in detail about how Hitler was able to gain such widespread support for his ideology.

For one, National Socialism made a habit of using propaganda to influence the masses. What really put the nail in the coffin, though, was a concept called ‘volksgemeinschaft’. ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ spoke of a shared “language, history [and] blood” passed on from one Germanic generation to another. This identity, according to Hitler, was superior to all others, and needed to be preserved. This vein of thinking insisted that ‘others’ who did not share this identity be excluded or eliminated in order to preserve and protect its purity.

The call to exclusion, however, was hidden behind the hope and promise of unity. In one speech, Hitler addressed himself to German workers, promising a united people free from the separation of class. His regime proposed programs that made vehicles and vacations accessible to lower income families, for example. The problem with the unity that Hitler offered, besides the glaring issue of violent exclusion and genocide, was that it was a unity that insisted on sameness.

It was interesting for me to connect some of the teachings we have learned in class on difference to what had played out in this dark moment in history. On the surface, playing off differences between people, offering a “we’re all the same in the end,” is a great way to avoid conflict and live in harmony. The reality, however, is that this mindset can actually be quite harmful. Rather than building bridges, this way of interaction does not acknowledge the reality of differences – and sometimes big ones – between people. Yet differences make up our identities. They are, in some ways, who we are. Rather than ignoring them, we can, and must, embrace differences, remembering that they create space for authenticity, dialogue, beauty, and a truer kind of love for one another.

Migrants are People

By | All Things Travel | One Comment
[Alannah DeJong, a 2nd year student at SSU, recently participated in Uprooted – a Learning Tour with Mennonite Central Committee to the Northern and Southern borders of Mexico. The three week tour explored themes of migration and peace building. This blog post originally appeared on the Uprooted blog.]

This past semester I learned about dehumanization. Simply put, dehumanization happens when a group of people is seen as “less than human” by another group. By giving a different name and attributing only a single story to this group, it becomes easier to justify their mistreatment. In my own experience, these kinds of dehumanizing tendencies are sometimes shown when it comes to migrants. Naturally, on this learning tour which focuses on migration and peacebuilding, we have had some important discussions about migration. These have continued here in Mexico City. We have learned that there are many different reasons for which a person might migrate. Someone might decide to leave their home because of economic opportunities elsewhere, or because of environmental dangers. Someone may migrate in order to be reunited with family members, or simply for a change in scenery. Some people leave their homes because they will be killed if they stay. There is no single migrant story.

Being on this trip has allowed me to broaden my understanding of what a migrant is. I have come to the realization that a migrant is someone who has left one place to move to another. I am a migrant if I leave my home country for fear of persecution. I am a migrant if I move to another province for a job. Migrants are not all victims. Migrants are not all criminals. Migrants are not all poor. There is no single migrant story.

During our time in Mexico City so far, we have been able to visit some of the spaces that shelter migrants along their journeys. Within these shelters are incredibly beautiful pieces of art painted by some of the people who have stayed there. I would like to share pictures of a few murals in CAFEMIN, a family migrant shelter that also provides workshops in areas such as baking, sewing, and computers for the people staying there:


This mural pictures an angel overseeing Mary, Joseph, and Jesus during their own migration.


This mural shows Jesus carrying his cross, and migrants after him carrying theirs.

The message of these murals is one of humanization. They bring humanity to the topic of migration in a powerful way; by countering the disassociation that sometimes occurs when migrants are concerned. It is important not to fall into the tendency of dehumanization. I know that the pain in the world is so great, and it is often easier to talk about people as though they are a little less than people. It makes life easier to bear. But if I take a step back, I remember that Jesus was a migrant, and that I myself am a descendent of migrants. Yet I also remember that migrants are people deserving of human rights and dignity not because I am related to migrants, or worship a God who was one, but simply because they are people.