This is the story of Maria Martin, a Mennonite living in Russia. It will be your story during this activity.

My name is Maria Martin. I'm 36 years old. I live here in Blumenort, a village in the Russian Pale. That's the area where all Mennonites like us must stay. My husband Jacob and our boys, Peter and David, work with the other villagers in the fields. Our farms grow lots of flax and hay (for our cows). Our girls, Anna and Esther, help me with the household chores and look after the pigs and hens. All our children are old enough to go to school. Our farm life is hard, but we've been happy enough. Our Mennonite community owns plenty of land around the village. The Russians gave us this land.

We Mennonites like to worship God in our own way. We stick together and help each other out. We have our own ways. We have our own schools, our own language, our own churches. They aren't the Russian ones. The Russian government said that was fine. They left us alone for generations. Now things are changing.

Let me explain. We Mennonites first came to Russia because our European neighbours drove us out. We thought we'd be safe here. Now, after 100 years, our people are threatened in Russia. They want us to stop speaking German and learn Russian. They want us to pay taxes and obey all their laws. They want us to be just like them-just like the Russians. We never had to do that before. They want to draft our sons into their army to serve for years and years. Our boys will lose their religion and we'll lose our boys. We can never agree to it because armies are for killing. No Mennonite can kill another person, ever.

Something else is worrying us. Sometimes some Russians get so discouraged about their bad crops and their hard life, they look for somebody to blame when things are bad. We Mennonites have suffered when Russians riot and loot and burn our villages. Nobody protects us from the rioters. The Secret Police even encourage the looters. The terror of a pogrom is too much to bear. Jacob and I fear for our lives. And what about our children? Their future is not safe here.

A man from a place called Canada was here this week. He said his country needed good farmers like Jacob and our neighbours. He claimed we Mennonites could live in peace in Canada and make a good life for our children.

I wonder?