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Original author: 
Ian Willms

At the heart of the Mennonite religion, you’ll find an unwavering commitment to nonresistance that has endured five centuries of oppression and violent atrocities. This work is a photographic ode to an endless journey that my Mennonite ancestors undertook in the name of peace.

Right from their origins in the 16th and 17th centuries, Mennonites in the Netherlands were hunted down by the Catholic Church and publicly tortured to death because of their Christian beliefs. This prompted the Mennonites to migrate to Poland, where they remained for a century until the state began to force them into military service. In the late 18th century, the Mennonites chose to migrate again — this time to Ukraine and Russia.

On a bitterly cold winter night, in the midst of the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik soldiers arrived at my family’s doorstep. They forced 48 Mennonite men to walk from house to house at gunpoint using them as human shields as they stormed the non-Mennonite homes; my great grandfather was one of three survivors from that group. During the revolution, entire Mennonite villages were wiped off the map in nighttime massacres that saw men, women and children struck down by Bolshevik soldiers on horseback. Those who were able to escape with their lives would return to their villages the following day to bury their neighbours and families in unmarked mass graves before beginning new lives as refugees. Throughout their history, the Mennonites have been repeatedly faced with the same decision: Take up arms and abandon your faith, leave your home behind and give up everything you have worked for in your life, or die where you stand.

In 2012, I decided to re-trace the refugee migrations of the Mennonites to witness the places where they lived and died. I followed their historical journey through The Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Ukraine, photographing the communities, farmland, execution sites and mass graves that had been left behind. The path on which I traveled emulated the nomadic history of the Mennonites, while I searched for a feeling of familiarity and a connection to the former homes of my distant relatives. In most places along the migration route, the lingering presence of the Mennonites was little more than a collection of memories; a pockmarked gravestone; the mossy foundations of a farmhouse; a group of blurry faces, locked away in a history textbook. I found myself sifting through peaceful cow pastures and rural villages, seeking the ghosts of unimaginable heartbreak and tragedy.

The process of carrying out this work took an emotional toll, but the experience taught me to admire the Mennonites for their immense personal sacrifices. The Mennonites gave up community, prosperity and even faced death because they believed in the statement of nonresistance. I feel that if the places in these photographs could speak, they would tell us that hostilities brought against pacifist peoples are more than an injustice; they are an attack upon the hope for peace within our world.

Ian Willms is a photographer based in Toronto. He is currently represented by Getty Images Emerging Talent.

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From wildfires in Australia and riots in Belfast to the one year anniversary of the capsized cruise ship Costa Concordia and snow storms in the Middle East, TIME presents the best images of the week.

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Some people using the Anonymous banner have declared religious war on the Westboro Baptist Church, the real-life "God hates fags" trolls who have announced their intention to picket the funerals of the children shot in Sandy Hook. In addition to publishing a list of purported home addresses and phone numbers of alleged Westboro members, the Anons have released a videos that sets out chapter-and-verse citations of Biblical injunctions that Westboro is said to have violated, and promises to punish all of them.

In response to the WBC's plans early today, Anonymous tweeted, "It's so nice of #WBC to provide the internet with a list of their twitter handles..." Roughly one hour later, they revealed their plans for the WBC: "#WBC GodHatesFags Site Admin gets #DOX'd via: Anonymous." DOX, of course, refers to the work Anonymous did to find and publish a list of WBC members complete with e-mails, phone numbers, and even home addresses—all for the adoring public to access.

In addition to the DOXing, Anonymous has repeatedly promoted a whitehouse.org petition to have the WBC recognized legally as a hate-group. The petition was created on Friday and it has already doubled the required 25,000 signatures.

Anonymous sets sights on an old enemy—the Westboro Baptist Church [Nathan Mattise/Ars Technica]

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Where did the European werewolf come from and why did this particular mythology become so powerful that we're still telling stories about it today?

In a fascinating talk recorded at Skepticon 5 last month, Deborah Hyde discusses the history of lycanthropy and its various roles in European society. Lycanthropy was more than one thing, Hyde explains. It functioned as a legitimate medical diagnosis — usually denoting some kind of psychotic break. It served as a placeholder to explain anything particularly horrific — like the case of a French serial killer. And, probably most importantly, lycanthropy went hand-in-hand with witchcraft as part of the Inquisition.

Hyde is the editor of The Skeptic magazine and she blogs about the cultural history of belief in the supernatural. As part of this talk, she's tracked down cases of werewolf trials in the 16th and 17th centuries and attempted to understand why people were charged with lycanthropy, what connected those cases to one another, and the role the trials played in the history of religious liberty. Great stuff!

Read Deborah Hyde's blog

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"Why would they want to pull down these walls?” asks William Boyd mildly as he offers me a cup of tea in his home at Cluan Place, a predominantly Loyalist area of east Belfast.

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Come out in the name of Jesus, indeed! Televangelist and tele-exorcist Bob Larson (web, Wikipedia, Amazon) spiritually cleanses a man who is possessed by "a filthy stinking sex demon" of homosexuality and pornography. FYI, UFOs have an agenda, and it is to impregnate us with gay demon alien seed. io9 has written about Larson before.

(thanks, Joe Sabia, via Reddit)

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w680

Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital when Somalia was still a nation, is the poster city for what WikiTravel.org calls “the most lawless and dangerous city on Earth… Even with guards, the likelihood of being injured, kidnapped, and/or killed is still very high, including potentially by said hirable guards… Traffic drives on the right.” As far as I could tell, traffic went every which way—and yes, I grant you that Mogadishu’s walls are bullet-pocked in three sizes: thumb size for AK-47s, fist size for .20 caliber, and both fists for .50 caliber.

http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2012/winter/sleigh-florio-poor-zone/

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Interview with a Casino Priest

Historically speaking, a casino is a place to lose money and time and wear a bad shirt (or take acid and go to a Lauryn Hill concert). What it isn’t is a place for a priest. So when I heard that Melbourne’s Crown Casino employs a full-time priest I said fuck off. But they do. They really do. That man is Friar James Grant, a plain-spoken dude of the cloth who spends his days chatting to lost souls in what must be one of the least spiritual places on Earth. I met him in the food court—where he knew everyone—to talk God, gambling, and whether or not he wanted to play craps with me.

VICE: So what are you doing here?
Friar James Grant: I offer counseling services. A lot of the people come to the casino because they’re lonely or they’re depressed. I always tell people to look at the bigger picture. OK, so you might have a gambling problem, but what else is going on in your life? What’s the bigger picture?

Do you tell people it’s wrong to gamble?
No, I don’t think it is. There’s nothing in the bible that says it’s wrong to gamble. What’s bad, and this goes for booze and drugs and driving your car 200 miles an hour down the road, is a lack of moderation. I would consider that in moderation, gambling could be considered a normal human activity.

So drugs are OK in moderation?
I don’t know about that, I’m simply saying you have the right to free will. Do you have the right to walk in here? Absolutely. Do you have the right to take drugs and fuck your life up? Yes you do. Is it a good decision? No, it’s a dickhead decision but if I try to stop you, if I say “you no longer have the right to do that,” then I’m reducing your humanity. And God wants a full life for everyone.

Wow, that doesn’t seem typical of the Catholic belief system. And you said “Fuck.”
[Laughs] Yes well, I’m just speaking for myself. I don’t espouse what you might think of as the normal Catholic agenda but then I think the Church needs to change. There are too many priests who never go into the real world. They sit in their church and wait for the congregations to come to them. That’s useless. I think I serve a much more useful roll by providing counseling where people need it and speaking like a real human being.

CONTINUE

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