About 75 participants from 15 countries attended the first of two seminars on how Mennonites in business could work together.
"We want to hear from the countries where businesspeople are active in the church," said Ben Sprunger, president of Mennonite Economic Development Associates, in opening the discussion. "Then we want to assess the need for cooperation among businesspeople around the world."
A member of a new MEDA group in Paraguay said Mennonite businesspeople there were asking "How can we be good Christians and show our faith in business." He said MEDA Paraguay was working with marginalized farmers and expects to help 100 families.
Bishop Naftali Birai of Tanzania reviewed MEDA's history in his region and expressed a desire for more cooperation in the future. He said there were three potential MEDA groups in his country.
A second seminar dealt with the need for coordination among various countries. About half of the 30 persons present voted in favour of global federation. "For most, the existence of Mennonite business associations or groups was new information," says Sprunger. "The idea that some type of federation might be helpful was just as new."
He says MEDA doesn't want to push the federation idea if the time isn't right. MEDA North America is willing, however, to serve as a catalyst, facilitator and keeper of the mailing list.
Indonesian business leaders had earlier suggested holding an international congress of Mennonite businesspersons, possibly as early as 1998. Hong Kong, Bangkok or Jakarta were suggested locations.
Four persons from India, Indonesia and the US agreed to serve on an ad hoc committee to further process the federation concept.
Countries represented at the two seminars were Canada, France, Germany, Holland, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Paraguay, Russia, Tanzania, United States, Uruguay and Zaire.
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