BARCELONA, Spain (Mennonite Mission Network) – In a gesture that ties the history of Mennonites in Europe symbolically to their present and future, the Dutch Mennonite Conference flag is held aloft at the 2006 Mennonite European Regional Conference (known by its German acronym MERK), which took place in Barcelona May 25-28. At left is José Luis Suarez, pastor of Barcelona Mennonite Church, representing the host country. Thijn Thijink, who organized translations for the gathering’s events, holds up the other end. The flag was a gift from Dutch participants as a thank-you to the host country.
“Freedom is Commitment: Living the Will of God,” the theme of this year’s gathering, was the first in its 30-year history that the gathering has taken place outside the four countries of historical Mennonite history in Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands).
Participants at Barcelona spoke five languages: French, German, Dutch, Spanish and English.
Some 450 Mennonites from 10 different countries attended the conference. Nearly a dozen Mission Network personnel were present, some of whom led workshops, participated in plenary programs or organized translations.
According to Mennonite World Conference statistics, as of 2006 there are nearly 1.5 million Mennonites in more than 60 countries worldwide. Africa has the highest number of Mennonites, with more than 529,000 members, closely followed by North America with more than 500,000 members. Europe, the birthplace of Mennonites, has the lowest reported number of any region in the world – less than 52,000.