A comforting story
Hands united in order to finish, decorate, and create comforters for refugees during the conference. Under the guidance of the Dutch women Jeannette Stenvers and Marjan Huisman participants were able to lay a hand on the blankets. One special one was made with peace – wishes of more than hundred conference-participants and offered to the World Council of Churches because of the ‘comforting’ Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.
Comforters can be used as blankets, matrasses, dividing shields in tents, or whatever. But this is not the only reason they are made, Jeannette tells us: “A comforter does not only provide comfort, warmth and shelter, but it is especially a message of hope: receiving a handmade gift with different colors and patterns that someone has put together carefully, can reminds people that they are not forgotten.”
During the conference Jeannette and Marjan received a lot of positive reactions to the story of comforting. Some people came up who had once received a comforter, others told about their own experiences of handing out comforters: “it gives dignity to have some sort of bed instead of sleeping on the ground”. Some spoke of making comforters as a perfect example of ‘fellowship’: creating something together and being part of a bigger community. Anyone can join in this kind and highly practical gesture. A group of Indian women have even initiated the idea to start a quilt-group themselves.
Besides helping with the comforters, participants could decorate a piece of fabric with a Peace-message, with drawings, written texts, or greetings in one’s language. Together these individual pieces will be sewed into a comforter. The draft of this blanket was symbolically handed over by Jeannette to World Council of Churches moderator Agnes Abuom at the closing event of the conference and will later be send to the head quarters of the council in Geneva.
Jeannette and Marjan started to coordinate the project of making comforters in the Netherlands a few years ago after a call of MCC because of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. By now, all across the country groups of people come together in Mennonite churches to create the blankets and also little bags for schoolkits. Jeannette and Marjan provide instructions of how to make them, visit groups if necessary to help them or explain how this handcraft can be done. Already hunderds of comforters and bags are provided for MCC from the Netherlands and the rest of Europe.
Following the Second World War, Mennonite Central Committee arranged the sending of practical stuff from North-America to Europe. This tradition of sharing and comforting deprived ones has been pursued since WWII. Whether it is in a context of violence, natural disaster, or refugee camps, Mennonites around the world provide. Receiving hand-made quilts, blankets, or in other words “comforters”, more and more people are being literally “comforted” with warmth, shelter, love, and hope.