Saloma Miller Furlong
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In the Case of Jeriah Mast

If the Amish and Mennonite communities are not willing to protect their weakest and most vulnerable members,
then they deserve to be dismantled and become a thing of the past.
~ Paul Yoder

Yet another story has surfaced of sexual abuse related to Amish Mennonites. I first read it in Christian News. I commend Heather Clark for her courage in writing this report. The first step to interrupting the cycle of abuse is to tear the silence that shrouds it, and she has done that.

Jeriah Mast, who was a known pedophile, was stationed in Haiti as a Christian aid worker. Below are quotes from the report:

Christian News Network spoke with Will Rodenhouse, the former director of CAM’s [Christian Aid Ministries] Haiti outreach (2015-2017), who advised that Mast had been working in Haiti long before he arrived. Rodenhouse reported to Eli Weaver, who serves on CAM’s executive committee.

Mast, who was fluent in the Haitian language, had much control and leadership in the various Haiti humanitarian programs, including providing medical aid.

“I was … amazed how the country was his at the taking,” Rodenhouse stated. “He was involved in every off-site project, and I think that was because of his talent — because of his ability to speak the language well, knowing the culture, and his years of experience — that CAM used him for everything. And he was totally unaccountable.”

He said that he was informed that Mast had been sent home for a short time in 2012 due to a “moral failure” and allowed to return. Rodenhouse stated that when he asked what Mast had done, he was told, “[I]t was dealt with and we don’t need to talk about it.”

“I was never warned … that Jeriah was involved in pedophilia. I have three boys. I have two girls. I was never warned,” he lamented.

[…]

Rodenhouse said that it is his understanding that Mast had abused children in both the U.S. and Haiti, and that upon returning to the states, Mast intended on only telling the police about his American crimes and only did so after the families involved stated that they would not press charges.

A friend sent me a link to a very insightful blog post by Paul Yoder called “The Silent Curtain“in which he argues that the difference between abuse cases among the Amish and Mennonites and those in the mainstream culture is the way they are handled. I couldn’t agree more. I highly recommend reading his article.

I am convinced that the process of “forgiving and forgetting” among the Plain People is nearly as vulgar as the crimes themselves because it aids and abets the perpetrators — all in the name of Christianity. At best, it is a gross misinterpretation of Jesus’ message.

Among the Plain People, there is no distinction made between adultery and child sexual abuse. Two young people who love one another and are not married having sex is adultery in their eyes. Sex between a married person with someone other than their partner is adultery in their eyes. Beastiality and child sexual abuse is also adultery in their eyes. This means they don’t distinguish between sex crimes and consensual relations between two adults.

I believe that this black and white thinking is partly due to the lack of education. There is an almost stubborn insistence to adhere to the old ways of thinking, even when that thinking borders on ignorance. Why are the Amish still exempt from compulsory education, when everyone in the mainstream culture has to live by a whole other standard? Wouldn’t we condemn a culture in some foreign land that rests its survival on the premise that their children must not learn too much?

It will be interesting to watch what happens in the case of Jeriah Mast. Will he be prosecuted in the full extent of the law, or will the people around him aid in him taking a slick detour around the laws most people need to abide by?

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