Abduction Case Tests Limits of Amish Ties to Modern World

The kidnapping of two girls in Oswegatchie, N.Y., highlighted the challenges the Amish face by adhering to a 19th-century lifestyle in a 21st-century world.

Comments: 154

  1. I live and farm in an "old order' Amish community here in NW Pennsylvania. This article is true to form, and I cherish my Amish neighbors for their honesty and willingness to help out whenever asked. Child molesters are scum, and anyone that would prey on trusting Amish children deserve to be compost. Might be the most useful they could ever be.

  2. Why have you made a distinction between “anyone who would prey on trusting
    Amish children” and those who would prey on ANY child??

  3. I have good friends who are Old Order Amish from Lancaster County, PA. -- so-called "Pennsylvania Dutch" -- and I have been closely studying and learning about them (as well as learning from them).
    Reporter Kirk Semple's article about Amish in New York State is balanced, respectful and knowledgeable. He knows, for example, that there are several distinct sects within the broad Amish culture, but they all typically have caring, mutually beneficial relationships with their "worldly" non-Amish neighbors.
    And the special difficulties posed for the Amish by an event liked the recent kidnapping were well explained here.
    My thanks to Mr. Semple and the Times for an informative piece that goes a long way to presenting the Amish as they really are, a welcomed contrast to such misleading and outright dreadful TV pseudo-documentaries as "Breaking Amish" and "Amish Mafia."

  4. It's so good to hear such a good story, even if brought about by a terrible thing. There is hope for us yet when such diverse people do not just tolerate one another….but truly are glad to help.

  5. How could any man hurt the daughters of these generous, honest hard working people? Only a brutish base coward would do such a thing - it fills me with disgust that men could behave in this way. They are nothing - just problems in society while we are so blessed by the honesty, friendship and work ethic of these lovely families.

  6. You fail to add he had a female companion. Although she is an alleged slave, she is of legal age and holds responsibility.

  7. I am often astonished and inspired by how hard-working, un-jaded and unspoiled Amish children are in comparison to others.

  8. They emulate their parents. Kind of makes for the argument to do away with technology and replace it with hard work and plenty of family time!

  9. Their work ethic is great but their education is minimal, thanks to a 40 year old Supreme Court opinion that their parents' religious freedom trumps their children's right to an education.

  10. Are you also inspired by the fact that their education is limited to the 8th grade?I’m not.
    I have a very religious brother and sister in law who are raising their children without television,video games,internet access,etc.The children are unspoiled,un-jaded and hardworking.Like the Amish,they will not be allowed to attend college,but they will at least be permitted to graduate from high school.
    My sister’s children were raised with all the usual “amenities” of childhood.Along with T.V.,video game,and smartphones came the opportunity to attend college.My sister’s son has a 4.0 GPA at a competitive college where he is a teacher’s assistant.My 33 year married niece began law school
    as a mother to an infant and a two year old.She’s about to enter her 3rd year.
    Some of those children who are sitting on the couch playing video games now
    may be working quite hard,juggling law school and two children under five down the road. Those "hard-working,un-jaded,un-spoiled” Amish children
    who inspire you so much are children whose parents have robbed them
    of any more than a 8th grade education.I’m not inspired by them.I feel sorry for them.I hope the laws will be changed so that their parents can not deprive them of even a high school education.

  11. Obviously, these girls were targeted because of their age and their innocence. Young and virginal - that's what sexual deviants lust after.

    On a person note, as an adolescent was a victim of an attempted molestation while traveling home from my Catholic school. Didn't realize that my uniform was part of the attraction until many years later.

  12. This is an admirable group of people who live with their beliefs without expecting or demanding that the rest of the world be like them, or else. How uplifting and refreshing.

  13. Thanks to Kirk Semple for this very sensitive and illuminating portrait of a community. More of his writing and more articles like this, please!

    And while I'm at it, a bravo for Nathaniel Brooks. The photographs are great.

  14. I have often thought that if everyone were more Amish like we would be a more civilized society. Less greed, less focus on self. More focus on community, less technology. More respect for everyone. Having only what we need to live. I have a great deal of respect for the Amish and their way of life. Thanks for their example.

  15. But there is a downside that should not be ignored. Amish is not all romance and quaintness. The Delaware Amish, whom I medically attended for a time, declined deodorant use, and they had no leanings at all toward oral hygiene or modern dentistry. Their body odor made it difficult to conduct a very long office visit, and they lost their teeth at an early age. And the Amish are not quite as altruistic as depicted by some. While they decline to purchase modern conveniences such as cars, electricity, TV, and phones, they have no reluctance when it comes to using those same modern conveniences purchased by others. Some would interpret that as sponging. If their beliefs are so strong and admirable, why the repeated compromises? The horse-drawn buggies are a delightful sight, but slow and prone to causing accidents. I've wondered if they venture onto freeways. I do not mean to rain on their parade; merely to point out a few realities and consequences of their lifestyle. Apparently the positives outweigh the negatives to them, although how would they know?

  16. This quote from the article struck me as religious philosophical gymnastics: "Since the Amish in this region neither drive nor use telephones or electricity, each family has a relationship with non-Amish families who can make telephone calls on their behalf or drive them on urgent errands." If modern technology is so wrong, from their perspective, why is it OK to use the same technology indirectly through a third person?

  17. I was struck in another way by that statement in the article. Yes they drive, they drive horses for plowing fields and for pulling buggies. They just don't drive motor vehicles.

  18. " But the gratitude, several said, was accompanied by a certain remorse, mainly for having inconvenienced so many people."

    I do hope that the family and the Amish community has the wisdom to refrain from projecting that remorse onto the two girls, or in any way conveying to them the idea that they did something wrong to bring this ordeal upon themselves.

  19. That's not the Amish way. They believe the Lord is in control of everything.

  20. I have Amish neighbors at my place in upstate NY. I can see how they struggle with the reality of having to use technology but not owning their reliance on it. They beg rides to get diesel fuel. They use cell phones. One once asked me if she could plug a freezer into my power.
    This cannot last much longer. It's sad, but they will eventually embrace the new world, although they are fighting hard against it. I think the temptations of technology and the prospect of prosperity will overwhelm them.

  21. "This" has lasted a long time. What you call begging, others may view as bartering. In any event, let's hope you are not in need of help from your Amish neighbors. If you ever are, though, I suspect they would provide it. That was the thrust of the article, which I thought was well done.

  22. As the accompanying article makes clear, the girl's abductors -- apparently frightened by news reports of their crime and almost certainly in a state of panic and desperation -- managed to make one good decision and released the girls from their horrible captivity.

    While it's an admittedly slim chance that either or both of these miscreants might experience another comparable moment of mental clarity or, even, remorse, how about this:

    Let them keep their belts.

  23. I was so sorry to hear about the pain which was endured by these two young Amish girls and how evil their violation was--its always evil anywhere it the world, but especially so when wrought upon Amish people of deep faith who strive for different aims than reflected by the general population which surrounds them but is so far from their inner lives away from it. It makes the crimes perpetrated against them all the more hideous and heart wrenching. I wish these girls strength and courage to deal with their trauma, along with the faith of their community who will help them heal.

    To those responsible I know that you will feel the full force of the law. My other thoughts and feelings remain unprintable! Its always astonishing to me how human beings (???) are capable of such inhuman acts in the face of pure innocence. How do you live with yourselves? How can you become so perverted and twisted for such evil crimes?

  24. I am as sorry and outraged as everyone for whatever happened to these girls. I'm very happy they are safe now.

    But I rankle a bit at this and similar comments that seem to feel that it's more evil when it happens to these gentle sweet people of "deep faith" and as one commenter said, "greater integrity" (which I don't appreciate).

    Such a crime is just as hideous no matter who it is perpetrated on: Amish, Atheists, celebrities, athletes, suburbanites, and yes, children of criminals or drug addicts. I think it is all equally heart wrenching. I hope you're not implying that a harsher punishment is in order because it's a bigger shock to the famous Amish purity; that it's not as repulsive to the less jaded victims of crime.

  25. Such crimes perpetrated against non-Amish girls are every bit as evil and heart wrenching as when those crimes are perpetration against Amish girls.Sexual molestation is no less a violation or trauma to a young girl who has electricity
    or even a smartphone than it is to an Amish girl.

  26. A wonderful story of neighborly cooperation and mutual respect. It does make one wonder why so much animosity is directed at a large swath of the middle of this country. A mocking of folks, who while not Amish, choose a simpler, far less sophisticated way of life than that of either our right and left coasts. They might have very large families, attend church regularly, choose to home school. Whatever, they routinely take a "beating" from their "hipper and cooler" albeit distant, neighbors. Who's ignorant?

  27. The animosity isn't directed at the people of middle America per se, but the willful ignorance of many middle Americans that is often coupled with an intolerant attitude toward the non-religious and attempts to impose religion upon the rest of us with Bible-approved laws that are antithetical to personal responsibility and freedoms.

    The Amish don't try to change our national or even state laws to codify their religious preferences and impose them on the rest of us, the way that Evangelical Christians do in this country and Muslims do in other countries. The Amish mind their own business and don't attempt to impose their way of life on anyone else. How about trying that, Evangelicals? Maybe you'd feel less animosity from the rest of us.

  28. I would question the use of "a 19th-century agrarian lifestyle" when most rural families in the early 20th century lived as do the Amish. There was often no electricity, cars were rare, radio and television had yet to be invented. Many women of that era sewed and made clothing, though perhaps not in the conservative Amish style. Many prohibitions in the Amish community arose is response to what we "English" would consider progress.

  29. "“Everybody wants to help, even the English,” said John Miller,"

    What he seems to have realized, and it's something no amount of cloistering away from "the other" can inculcate, is that we are all human beings. We are all the same. But we stand behind artificial divisions, walls not made by God yet interpret these walls as such. I hope Mr. Miller takes the moment of clarity given him and expands on it. Would that we all, in the greater world, do the same.

    American Net'Zen

  30. As much as the liberals would like to believe that we are all the same, and as warm and fuzzy as it sounds, we are most certainly not the same. The irony is that while maintaining that we are all the same, liberals constantly encourage celebration of our diversity and differences! Please, I'm confused. Make up your minds! America is not about being the same. It is about being different, and making a difference, if you so choose. The Amish, whether you agree with their lifestyle or not, are an illustration of that; sameness is not what they stand for. The romanticized and politically correct notion of sameness can be very destructive. Why strive if we're all the same, no matter what we accomplish or contribute? If there's no opportunity to distinguish one's self, why produce? Unlike the Amish, most people do not believe that this life is merely a path to a much better eternal life. People have different nationalities, social customs, philosophies, religious beliefs (maybe), aspirations, politics, personalities, genetics, family backgrounds, social status, possessions, occupations, likes and dislikes. We are most definitely NOT the same, and who, for God's sake, would want to live in a world where everyone is the same? So please, get over it. We have never been, are not now, and never will be the same.

  31. Don S., certainly with your direct interaction with the Delaware Amish, you should recognize that these people indeed strive for sameness within their own groups. The article mentions that the conservative Swartzentruber Amish left Ohio to distance themselves from progressive Amish. They wanted a very structured society, and when diversity of thought and lifestyle threatened their sameness, they split off. The conservatives around me are the same way, rejecting diversity and desiring bland sameness in race, religion and politics. To them (and I'm thinking of several neighbors and acquaintances), if a snap of the fingers could make all of the community or even the world just like them, then everything would be just perfect. Until then, anyone or any thing not part of their social ideal is a threat, and inferior.

    I don't have any confusion or cognitive dissonance believing that we are all the same (humans) and unique (individuals) at one time. It looks to me like you were just trying to take a potshot at liberals without even knowing the political leaning of the writer, John in NYC.

  32. Fascinating case. I do not see it as a problem of the Amish with the 21st century but with two obviously abnormal and depraved individuals who, fortunately, apparently gave up rather quickly because they had no chance to make the two girls their 'slaves'.

    Years ago a Mormon girl was not so lucky - she spent years with her abductor and learned to survive the most terrible conditions.

    One detail of this article is rather odd.

    ‘Harvey Swartzentruber, 35, an Amish farmer and diesel motor mechanic’ the article says.

    How can anyone be a diesel motor mechanic without driving anything? He looks to me like an old style blacksmith taking care of horses – I admired them in my old country when I was about 10 years old.

    In any case this is an uplifting story because of its happy ending – the girls are back with their family an in couple of years they will be able to decide whether they will remain Amish or ‘join the world’.

    Whatever they decide, I hope they will remain close to their parents.

  33. Although they do not use diesel engines to power vehicles, many Amish groups do use diesel engines to power farm equipment such as conveyors.

  34. Depending on the Amish community and their own Ordnungs, they might, as drj suggests, use a diesel motor for running farm equipment. Or they might have a blacksmithy business that, in addition to making tools, will repair motors belonging to non-Amish farmers. I've seen a similar business in the Amish community in Adams County, Indiana. As some have commented, it is easy to romanticize Amish for their simple lifestyles, and question the sincerity of it when they learn of such seeming contradictions. Each community decides what they will use of the modern world, and what they will not. They are not trying to recreate an "authentic" lifestyle reflecting an earlier era. They are retaining what works for them, and accommodating to modern ideas that do not detract from their intentions.

  35. There was a very interesting program about the Amish on PBS recently. It's impossible not to admire people who live simple lives and do no harm to others.

  36. My uncle is one of the only "English" elders in an Amish community in New York State. He speaks their language and helps and guides them where he can. Because of the this, my family has an unusually strong relationship with the Amish community in general. They are some of the nicest, most grounded people you will ever meet.

    My heart pours out to the Miller family.

  37. There are younger Amish using smart phones, now. Whether or not they would be able to use one among their brethren in an emergency is problematic. That its use will bring changes, is not.

  38. In the 80s, a tornado destroyed the family home of my companion in Ohio. It took several months of negotiating with insurers before rebuilding could begin. The house of an uninsured neighbor, however, was rebuilt almost immediately thanks to the "barn raising" skills found in the nearby Amish community, whose members offered their assistance.

  39. This kind of benevolence is not at all unique to the Amish. Here in rural Illinois, if a farmer has a heart attack, you will see an army of friends and neighbors jump to the task of completing the harvest of that farmer's land, with the neighbors bearing the load of the cost and the temporary neglect of their own land and crops in order to love their neighbor as themselves. That is the standard Christian response, not some characteristic of the Amish.

  40. It's standard Christian teaching, but not a standard Christian response.

  41. yellowclivia, I would say it's a more standard response than you suppose. It's a Christian response, that I have seen among many Christian church communities. It's a neighborly response, also, that I have witnessed among groups regardless of religious beliefs or lack of them.

  42. I just finished reading the story about ISIS. Then I read this story. This story was very refreshing. More importantly showing how folks of very different societies can live next to each other and support each other.

  43. A very nice and educating storey about these great people. Thanks God the girls were not hurt and back with the family. The storey about Amish people shows the richness of American society, freedom for people to choose the life they aspire to. Amish are great people, honest, family oriented, hard working and very decent human beings, thats what I have learned from this article. A great story written balanced and respectful way.

  44. Not hurt? They were sexually abused.

  45. Muzzafar Syed
    While not disagreeing with the warm sentiments you express, I'd just like to point out that if the girls were sexually assaulted, as the article mentions, they most definitely were hurt.

  46. @Muzaffar Syed... I agree about the part "Thank God the girls were not hurt and back with the family." But it also makes me wonder... what was God doing when they were abducted in the first place?

  47. Good article, well balanced, well researched. Mr. Semple is to be commended

  48. I find it hard to understand how any father would resist allowing a sketch artist to make an illustration of his recently abducted daughters based on some murky interpretation of the bible. HIs daughters lives hung in the balance while he had to be convinced. No doubt the Amish are decent and hardworking people but they also repress women and eschew education. Thank goodness those little girls were returned safely but their father's adherence to dogma almost cost them their lives.

  49. I agree with you. The Amish do cooperate with the law. Their horse-drawn carriages do have those reflectorized 'slow moving vehicle' symbols. Might they be able to compromise just a little to allow simple photos of their children to be used in emergencies?

  50. The Amish don't always cooperate with the law. In some Amish communities, the reflective "slow-moving vehicle" signs are allowed on buggies. In others, they are not, and this has been a source of conflict. The Amish fought a court case to allow them to educate their children as they wish. They do not fight in wars.

    I agree that it is difficult for people outside the Amish community--and there are multiple Amish communities--to understand how and why they do or don't bend to modernity. As I understand it, the core belief is that they will allow the modern world into their lives, insofar as modern things don't harm their community or their faith.

    Pictures of the girls are a good example of something that the Amish would feel harms their faith. God said to make no graven images. He did not say to make no graven images unless your daughters are kidnapped, or unless those images would make finding your daughters easier, or unless the sheriff asks for pictures. God said don't--and the Amish take that very seriously.

  51. Like all religious zealots, the father cared more about pleasing an imaginary sky god than he did about the welfare of his own children.

  52. I know many of the Amish in that community, having had the pleasure of working for a week at an Amish sawmill and buying timbers and the most beautiful hand-made windows from various Amish craftspeople. I suspect they were drawn to that region by the cheap farmland (its a very depressed region, economically) and its fascinating to see how they are succeeding. But the northern NY Amish are a far cry from wealthy Lancaster, PA Amish and images people are used to; most struggle to get by but like the other comments here, they seem universally optimistic. Its also easy to romanticize the Amish. I like to call the "the nicest fundamentalists I know." They have a bedrock sense of their faith, one that most of us could not live with for a moment, but they see no need to proselytize and don't seem to pass judgment on non-believers. (The photo in the article, by the way, showing the buggy passing in front of the church, may make readers assume the Amish worship in lovely white churches. In fact the Amish have no church buildings but rotate their services in homes).
    Theology aside, I think readers are responding to Amish values, which are seemingly unwavering, stoic, and powerful and thought-provoking. Can we nominate Amish to the boards of banks on Wall Street?

  53. It's really historically and theologically inaccurate to call them "fundamentalists", except in the very most nebulous sense. Historians of religion would consider them Anabaptists, a very early branch of Protestants from the 16th century. The modern Christian Fundamentalists are evangelical in nature and emerged around the end of the 19th century. They are trying to convert non-believers. Amish are not.

  54. I think before “we nominate Amish to the boars of bans on Wall Street”they’ll need more than an 8th grade education.

  55. how about for u.s. president?

  56. There is a downside to all extremely conservative orthodoxies. Even these gentle folks cannot avoid the modern world. Nor are all their practices so gentle. The stories of shunning tell us about what happens if you don't obey. While they are sincere, they are ultimately wrong.

  57. This is absolutely true. There is only one way to be Amish in any given one of their communities; deviate from the path and like Hasidic Jews they will ruthlessly shun and expel you and never look back. They are economically self-sufficient which is something to admire however their religious extremism and the rigidity with which they enforce it is far from being admirable in my view.

  58. True, Terry, but we practice our own variations, don't we? I've known friends "shunned", unfriended, etc., by others for "sins" like "oh, they're too Republican" or "I don't like their views on X". We're not always as inclusive and tolerant as we like to pretend at times.

  59. Whoa, judgmental much? You don't think the equivalent of shunning happens all around you every day?

    These people move into areas essentially abandoned by the larger society, and make a go of it without our modern "conveniences". Their life isn't for every one, but they apparently keep 80-90% of their children within the faith. How does that compare with your religion?

  60. I don't care for religion, but I have always adored the Amish, that exceptionally rare group of people who actually practice the art of Christianity.

    Absolutely wonderful human beings.

  61. Socrates--
    Agreed. I also do not care for religion, but they live according to their beliefs without feeling the need to convert or impress. The Amish are impressive in many ways.

  62. Like everyone else who's commented so far, I view the Amish as having greater integrity than the rest of us. But I hope people who don't actually come in regular contact with Amish (as we do in southern Indiana) imagine that they are naive or simple. They are good business people, and know that despite the immodesty of images, branding their baked goods or other products with "Amish" and a buggy logo attracts a certain kind of buyer interested in wholesome, traditional quality.

    At a farmers' market, I once admired the handmade rugs displayed by a young Amish woman, and asked about the work that went into them and eventually for a price, since they had no tag. I reluctantly decided that despite their coolness, the rug wouldn't work in my pet-infested house, but when I passed by again later, I overheard the seller quote a much higher number to a better-dressed customer, who bought it. I had to chuckle at the "simple" stereotype.

    As this article should indicate, it requires intellectual flexibility and complex social negotiations for the Amish to lead their chosen way of life—and they do that without being hostile toward others who don't share it, nor condemning others or trying to convert or dominate them. That's what amazes me, if you think about the violence in the world today generated by religious sects. I hope the resilience and depth of character in the Amish community will help with the healing process for the two girls who were so monstrously targeted.

  63. Duh—of course I meant that people not in contact with the Amish should NOT imagine they're naive. Got tripped up on that double negative.

  64. The Amish aren’t just excellent craftspeople and wearers of old-timey clothes. . . The Anabaptists from which the Mennonite and Amish sects branched lived a simple life, dressing in a fashion considered “behind the times” even in 16th and 17th century Switzerland and Germany where they were brutally persecuted, deprived of their property, sometimes enslaved and executed for their refusal to baptize their children. One of my Anabaptist ancestors froze to death in a Bern prison shortly after giving birth to her last child.

  65. You view the Amish as having “great integrity than the rest of us.”?! Speak for yourself.I don’t view the Amish as having greater integrity than I do.For what it’s worth.I was raised in the Orthodox Jewish Community by parents who raised my four siblings and myself with the utmost of integrity and highest standards of honesty. It was quite a shock when I encountered the “real world” so to speak.

  66. I find it odd, though, that while everyone is talking about how the non-Amish community helps the Amish community with things like phone calls and driving, no one is talking about who will help these two little girls who were sexually assaulted. I bet the "normal rhythms of life" haven't returned for them. What happens to them in this highly conservative, Amish context?

  67. Probably not much. If you are interested, read "Bonnet Strings", a autobiographical story about a young Amish woman who left, returned, and left her community permanently.

  68. I don't know the answer to that either, but unlike some other corners of the world we frequently read of, I doubt the girls will be stoned, cast out or otherwise mistreated for "allowing themselves" to have been abused and damaging the family honor. My guess is that within their own community, and within their own ways, they will receive the love and support of their family and community. Some will no doubt say that only a psychiatric professional could help, and in some cases that might be true, but that love and support is something many victims in the so-called modern or outside world may wish they had as well.

  69. Agreed--that's the real challenge here. I wonder what the Amish policy is for this kind of crime and its victims.

  70. I have powerfully mixed feelings about the couple that abducted and supposedly molested these two little girls: deep disgust for what they did and at the same time a weird sense of gratitude or relief that they didn't do what one has come to expect in such situations, i.e., murder them to get rid of the evidence and avoid capture. I also deeply hope that these children have not been permanently damaged by the trauma they underwent.

  71. Some 25 years ago, a friend and I visited an Amish community in northern Indiana and oddly enough, they accepted us into their private circle both for our ability to speak German and our knowledge of the bible. We were invited to and attended a church service in a barn, broke bread with them afterwards, and then a year later, were invited to a wedding. We didn't know what to give the young couple, so we gave them a gift of money, which was very much appreciated. Some of the other gifts the bride and groom received that day were a mop and a bucket. I will never forget that singular, otherworldly experience. It was like taking a step back in time. They are a lovely, lovely people, and their culture is worth sheltering and protecting. To the kidnappers who exploited the innocence of those two girls, heaps of shame.

  72. We can learn a lot from the Amish about what is really important in life if we look beyond the religious dogma. Given the horrible way we "English" treat this planet , I see their lifestyle as a beacon of hope for the future, rather than a quaint reminder of the past.

  73. Yes, a good job in journalism. Folks that just want to be left alone and live with their principles, and freedom of religion. Such a basic concept and so hard to grasp for so many. Enough of that. I appreciated the concept of community expressed in the article, community goes beyond religious beliefs. This is particularly true in our rural communities. When someone needs help, you step up.
    Does not happen in Miami, San Francisco, New York. The beauty of rural living, you help when needed, but not always. When was the last time you finished cooking a meal and walked to the neighbors to share? Not a big deal, just knock and go. A nice way to live and you do leave some smiles behind. I enjoy....

  74. I certainly hope you have lived in San Francisco, New York and Miami; how else could you make such a sweeping, smug and egregiously incorrect statement? A native New Yorker, I live in Manhattan and I have a 92-year-old mother who lives in the Bronx. Our New York is very different from the one you mention from your Ohio perch. We have never had anything but helpful and kind neighbors and friends. Generalizing about groups is a very dangerous thing, my friend, and shows you to be guilty of the discriminatory attitude that I'm sure you would jump to condemn in others. I have no doubt that some people in Cleveland are neighborly are others are not. That's how the world is.

  75. To add to what Valerie has said. You are also wrong about Miami. I've been through many hurricanes during my time in Miami. And communities and individuals come out and help each other in their time of need. I've seen it, and I've done it.

  76. Why fault the Amish? It's tiring (I'm Catholic) to read of criticisms about the Amish ways. Fault the 9th century mentality of people who think they can take hostages for their own shallow pleasures. That's just wrong to seize innocents or adults. If we all practiced the way the Amish do, our world would be a better place

  77. this kind of diversity of values and life styles is what makes america rich. let's hope they won't assimilate into a norm.

  78. A lot of people like to associate the Amish lifestyle with some kind of integrity or purity but I'm not so sure that an entire community living in lock-step denial of the realities of the modern world is all that pure or sensible in the end.

  79. It's their choice, though, isn't it? It certainly isn't a life I would choose, but it doesn't harm me in the least. We don't seem to be supporting them on food stamps and welfare. I also wouldn't say they were in "denial of the realities of the modern" world, for, in certain circumstances, as described in the article, they do avail themselves of modernity, such as the police force, a hospital, a neighbor's telephone. They choose, however, in most day to day situations to exist without the benefits, but also the negatives, of the modern world.

    Would you have the same criticism of remote tribes in the Amazon that are still practically in the Stone Age? Or even some Native American tribes here in the US where many choose to live their entire lives only among themselves on the reservation, adhering to tribal laws and customs?

  80. I'm glad the two girls were saved.

    However I wanted to comment on many of the comments posted here, which romanticize the Amish as some perfect blend of faith and innocence. All societies have their positive and negative traits, including the Amish. Growing up in Ohio, I learned that Amish women are considered subservient to the men, all Amish stop attending school at the 8th grade so they don’t become ‘too worldly’, and anyone who does not agree with their religion is shunned by friends and family. Eighty to ninety percent stay Amish and the rest leave. Through the years, I’ve worked with a couple of ex-Amish and they told me they couldn’t live with all the religious dogma, their authoritarian bishops, and also had a thirst for knowledge and left. All of them wanted to visit their Amish families but because they left, they were shunned.

  81. Maybe the young Amish couple I met in Europe belonged to one of the more relaxed communities - the girl most definitely was not "subservient" to her husband and they were as easy-going and open as any young couple of tourists I've ever met.

    I agree that there may be some extremely dogmatic communities who stifle their members' freedom and attempt to suffocate their free thinking. I sincerely hope the two raped girls belong to one of the more open communities that will care for them and help them to get over their trauma without shunning them as "damaged goods" for the rest of their lives.

  82. Is anyone else saddened to read so many gross generalizations about the Amish, as though they were one big blob instead of thousands of self-governed cells each different from the others? And gross mistakes like saying that Amish teachers leave school after eighth grade or that leaving the community means automatic shunning?

  83. I feel like modernity will benefit from the likes of the Amish. I don't see anything wrong in a buggy and a modern car-oriented lifestyle co existing in the same temporal plane. As I see it, what it means to be "modern" has got very narrow these days, i.e. if we don't consume in a certain way, live in a certain way or eat in a certain way, we are looked down upon as backward, so a little infusion of the Amish ways would be healthy for modernity, just as a little bit of faith would make for a healthy and well-rounded science and vice versa.

  84. Dear Sharmila: I'll bet that the Amish way of eating is way ahead of the modern way. Everything they eat is organic. It is home cooked and not loaded with salt, sugar and things not even identified on the label of whatever manufactured "stuff" we call food.

    All this is interesting - but does nothing to address with compassion the community's - and not just the nuclear family's - suffering. The Amish community will pull together. In this "modern" world the family will pretty much face it alone - so where is one more isolated? What I just did is compare "them" to "us" , as you did - to elicit more compassion for them.

    This community has been ruthlessly brutalized by a sexual predator and an accomplice - and how are we reaching beyond our differences to a common suffering? Not by comparing the superficiality of their lifestyle to ours, their
    "unconscionable" limiting of modern education ( which leaves many kids behind
    to be sure). Or gawking at them.

    I hope, as I believe you do, that they can shut away from themselves our coldness and our making things about our modernity and not about their suffering.

  85. The Amish visit non-Amish doctors because there are no Amish doctors. Thanks to a 1972 Supreme Court decision, the Amish cannot be compelled to educate their children according to state compulsory education laws. That being the case, Amish children received what amounts to an eighth grade education taught by young women with an eighth grade education. That fact alone dictates the survival of their communities. Young people simply cannot leave their families and compete in the larger community. Education dictates their choices as much as religion. Personally, I find a parental decision to arbitrarily restrict a child's options for their future ethically challenged. Adults have the right to reject or embrace whatever they choose, but making such choices on behalf of one's child needs to be informed by the the absolute knowledge that their child is a separate human being with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities. To my mind that means providing an education that gives real choice...even beyond the circle of one's immediate family.

  86. We have a friend who is a doctor and was raised Amish. He never would have left the community and been educated were it not for Vietnam war. A conscientious objector like all pacifist Amish he served as an orderly in a medical unit where his interest in medicine developed and where after a short time, day after day he would hear the same thing from the doctors " you are smarter than me. You are the smartest person I have ever met. You MUST get more education." And he did. Graduating first in his medical school class. He might be the only person on earth who has fond memories of that war.

  87. If they were IN the world, that would certainly matter -- the higher education of their youth taught by the higher educated. But don't impose your values on them. By doing so, you are dismissing their culture and their beliefs. would you ask them to convert? this is their religion, and as such, you can't determine what's best for them.

  88. As opposed to the inner city kids who nominally go to school for 12 years and get a diploma, but who have 8th grade reading and math skills if they are lucky. What is the future for these inner city kids with their 12 years of education but who are functionally illiterate? Too often, the only choice our inner city progressive education system gives children is failure and a life of poverty or near poverty. Progressives are great at criticizing cultures they don't like or understand, but our inner city temples of progressive thought don't seem to be benefiting the children or most adults.

  89. Sometimes I think I'd rather live among the Amish than the cell phone "zombies" that are among us - these self-absorbed narcissists glued to their phones who are totally unaware of their surroundings and the people around them.

  90. You might not think that if this article had touched upon the high rates of incest among the Amish and other matters which this article nicely glossed over,given the reader this nicely glossed image of the Amish as an idyllic people.

  91. Earlier this week, as I parked at the local hardware store, an Amish buggy was pulling away. A few minutes later, having made my purchases, I followed, carefully passing them on Route 13. Within minutes of arriving home, the buggy and it's occupants (an man and two children) passed by at a surprisingly quick pace. The klop-klop-klop of the horse's hooves echoing off the walls of the gorge in which I live, together with the deep green leaves of trees reflecting glorious, bright sunshine made a memorable scene. Amid the hurried pace of contemporary life, seeing the Amish and knowing a bit about their values can provide awareness of simpler times and great personal and familial integrity. That afternoon, for a brief, passing moment, I experienced a welcome and refreshing sense of peace.

  92. Despite its generally sympathetic tone, this superficial review of Amish culture reveals its ethnocentrism by labeling Amish communities which have somewhat assimilated into our vulture culture as "progressive". The only reason the Amish have survived in our increasingly intolerant America is their strict adherence to traditional Christian principles of separation from the world of evil, which, as this horrific case of abduction and rape shows, keeps crashing into their peaceful communities. However, what these two rapists did to the Swartzenruber Amish is nothing compared to what our federal government did to the Bergholz Amish Church District in Ohio. Last year the feds sentenced 16 members of the Bergholz Amish to a total of 68 years behind bars. Their "crime"? Cutting hair without permission. The spiritual leader of this Christian community, 68 year old Bishop Mullet, whose "crime" was knowing about the unwanted haircuts and not stopping them, rots in federal prison for the next 15 years. This witch hunt against the Amish is symptomatic of a broad scale attack upon the Amish who are increasingly under siege in America, and who will totally disappear from our societal mosaic unless their values become part of ours. Another American tragedy.

  93. Buckeye, your characterization of the Bergholz case is somewhat disingenuous. First, the defendants were not convicted of "cutting hair without permission." They were convicted of assault, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice (evidence-tampering) as hate crimes, because they forcibly cut the hair and beards of other Amish whom they perceived to be insufficiently orthodox. In other words, they physically attacked their coreligionists with sharp objects in an effort to humiliate and stigmatize them based on differing interpretations of church doctrine. Second, it's misleading to say that 16 people were sentenced to "a total of 68 years." Bishop Mullet (who instigated and organized the attacks) received a 15-year sentence and the others received less than 4 years each. Most will be eligible for parole much sooner than that, and indeed, at least two were released after serving less than a year. Finally, it's disturbing that you would dismiss the abduction and sexual assault of two young children to be "nothing" compared to the outcome of an open, validly-conducted judicial process in which the defendants were represented by counsel. You argue in favor of preserving Amish culture (and on that point, I agree with you), but your post doesn't seem to exemplify its values.

  94. Sorry, I don't believe the US has become more intolerant, indeed, we have (thankfully) inched towards being more tolerant, and I'll pass on any Amish (read: fundamentalist) values becoming part of ours, thank you very much. And if you did have their values become your personal values, Buckeye, guess you would not read the electronic version of an "English" newspaper, now would you?

  95. Since I live among the Amish in upstate NY-and from members of different congregations, who know the people and leader of the group in Ohio, I can tell you that they have a very low opinion of that group and are embarrassed that they are even called Amish. It is a cult-and that is the word used by my Amish firends, and the leader. Mullett, is a manipulative, seducer, who like all of us is not above the law. The "crime" is not giving a haircut, but attacking people, physically restraining them and forcibly cutting beards and hair. If you or I did that to someone, we'd be jailed to.

  96. I understand that the article has a focus on the Amish lifestyle and how they are managing to live and keep their traditions in a modern world but I'm really surprised to see how the fact that the girls were raped has no attention and it's not even mentioned on the comments! What's going to happen with this girls? How they will handle this trauma? By themselves? Or they will just not talk about and pretend that it never happened?

  97. The Amish do not discuss these traumas. They do not seek help. No one really knows how they handle this although based on many different stories and sources they will probably seek refuge with their God. This is not a usual case for many Amish families.

  98. I hope this girls can find comfort in their God then... cannot imagine what goes inside the head of a 7 years old after something like this... sad.

  99. when the killings at nickel mines in pennsylvania tested the values of the amish, they passed. they believe in compassion and forgiveness, and they came through with a brilliance that the rest of the society could only view in awe. we should not view that kind of integrity with awe, we should emulate it --when the worst happens, become closer to your ideals, don't use fear and outrage to excuse behavior you would despise in others. that said, those of us who have grown up close to the amish know that there are severe problems in their communities, and many times for individuals. when it comes to alcoholism, unwanted pregnancies, smoking, and animal cruelty they fit on the same spectrum as the rest of us. but they have provided us examples of perfect behavior in the moment, and fidelity to ideals, that we can all learn from. sounds from the article like their neighbors appreciate that.

  100. I am so envious of your beautiful photos in this piece. I was in Penn Yan (NY) a couple years ago and saw a proud looking Amish father driving his family in one of those buggies. However, I didn't take their picture because I thought I was supposed to respect their right not to be photographed.

    Is the NY Times above such restrictions?

  101. No they're not. But they certainly obtained permission to photograph what they did. Bear in mind there are no faces -- only objects that are not considered "likenesses".

  102. When it comes to photographs, countless tourists take pictures of the Amish. And we've all seen pictures of them in books and newspapers. Not having a single picture of your kids -- taken by your neighbors if you choose -- seems a strange place to draw the line.

  103. This follows form a literal interpretation of the OT Commandment against image-making.

  104. As I understand it, Old Order Amish do not permit themselves to be photographed. Often you will see photos of "Amish" people, but those are actually Mennonites, of whom several orders are slightly less restrictive.

    Once, in Shipshewana, Indiana, I was amused to see a pretty, teenaged Mennonite girl in starched dress, bonnet, and simple sandal, chatting with a friend in their German dialect. On a cell phone.

  105. It seems that most people view the Amish community through rose-colored glasses. There are many aspects of their lifestyle, dedication to community, and family togetherness that should be commended. Sadly, at the same time, being a female in Amish society often means repression and abuse. Mental illnesses, domestic violence, and sexual abuse do occur and little is done about it.

  106. I met a couple of young Amish during a train trip across Switzerland - I noticed that they were speaking a weird sort of Swiss German that I couldn't quite understand (and my German is pretty good); at some point they started speaking English with an American twang - so I had to ask them where they came from! The two youngsters (about 20 years old and just married) were on a trip "to explore the world" and were absolutely open to discovering how our 21st century techno-world works. Still, they were both looking forward to returning to their community and to their traditional, uncomplicated way of life. It was fascinating to hear about the way they strive to live in full harmony with nature, without relying on technological aid. Their community practiced "total pacifism" - that is, nobody had firearms, violence of all kinds was forbidden, and they did not go in the military. Something to learn for other parts of rural America there?

    What I especially appreciated was how they were not brainwashed into being closed off to the modern world: they were making a conscious, free choice to live according to their traditions and their religion. Really lovely, honest and peaceful people. If only all religious people were like that...

  107. For someone who takes a sociobiological view of human affairs, the Amish system of "rumspringa" (which you witnessed) is a pretty good way to keep the genes for non-piety and subservience out of the flock. Yes - go explore the English world. If you prefer it, by all means join it. Only come back if you're ready to commit the rest of your life to being a true believer. Given how long they've been around, it seems to have worked.

  108. Amid all the comments about the glorious ways of the Amish sorely missing is concern for the young girls lives who most likely have been forever impacted by this travesty. I doubt that a religion which holds women to second class, in keeping with most religions, has an acceptable program to helps these sisters through their trauma. It is also an indictment of how people avoid dealing with the trauma and wax poetic about horse and buggies and self sufficiency.

  109. It is interesting that some comments can't imagine how these girls will deal with the horror of what happened to them without professional therapy. Elizabeth Smart, who is Mormon, has said talking with her parents aided her in her recovery, along with horseback riding with her grandfather and playing the harp. It is possible.

  110. But most conservative-religious girls don't have families--or communities--nearly as understanding.

  111. With coast to coast problems of race, poverty, crime, corruption, disease, it seems odd to me that the New York Times and liberal left raise such a fuss over a small group who basically fend for themselves.

  112. How is writing an article about the tight-knit Amish community considered "raising a fuss?" Furthermore, there isn't a single sentence in the article defining it as "liberal."

    Did you wake up on the wrong side of the head this morning, dear Erik?

    Additionally, the article clearly states that the Amish (esp in this community) are not so isolated that they "fend for themselves." There is a distinct position of sharing between the modern world and the Amish. Please re-read.

  113. The increasing lack of interest in humanity by the right is frightening. Or is it that they never really cared about anyone but their own bank balance, and this is just becoming more transparent? The mission of real leadership is compassion and support for all citizens, not just the campaign contributers and the 1% who might fund the next campaign - and benefit from it personally. Thankfully, the right is disappearing, their numbers dwindling. In the next 20 years with the changing demographics, will vanish completely due to attrition and more knowledge about its negative agenda. Oh, what great times lie ahead for all of us, when we see how puling together as a nation, as we did during WWII can do to help everyone!

  114. "a small group who basically fend for themselves"

    How can we protect all of our citizens. What barriers do we need to overcome to ensure the protection of ALL of our citizens, whether in Oswegatchie, N.Y., or Ferguson, Mo., etc.

  115. Remember the horror of the young Amish children slaughtered by a madman in Pennsylvania? Remember the outpouring of help and how dignified the Amish community responded to a nightmare beyond comprehension? Remember the Pennsylvania State Troopers who responded and how they themselves were so sickened by this slaughter of young children?
    This is not the first time that the Amish have had their lives invaded by "the English."
    We should respect the Amish, their way of life and their deep faith in G-d. And we need to let them live in peace and safety...and protect them.

  116. I respect their way of life, for the most part, and I respect their faith in their god.

    But I really disagree with comments like this that suggest they deserve some special protection from us the "English", who they wish to distance themselves from.

    I'm sorry, but us "English" are facing the same worldly issues. Yes, that schoolhouse slaughter was horrifying, but so are all the other ones; Columbine, Newtown, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum. These things are just as horrific for Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, etc.

    It's kind of insulting to suggest that their "their way of life and their deep faith in god" is extra special. Us "English" deserve just as much safety and protection.

  117. Some unfortunate ignorance in this report. The Amish, like the Old Order Mennonites, Hutterians & some other sects, do not follow a 19th century way of life ‘to avoid attention’ as the URL indicates, but to maintain a measured social distance from what they see as corrupted modern society. As they worship in homes or barns, it’s misleading to show an Amish buggy in front of a Catholic church.

  118. When I was a child my parents were naive members of the back to the land movement. My father had purchased a rather dangerous green broke team of horses. Members of this community profiled in the article helped him to train the horses and they helped us with harvesting. My family had a number of close friendships with community members. The community is not perfect - but my family's observation, it did provide a significant amount of support and care for members when something traumatic happened. It is important not to romanticize the Amish - it is a hard life, especially for women who have the responsibility for the children - but neither should we demonize them. While we were there, we observed women taking on strong roles within the community.

  119. In my dealings with an Amish community in SW Virginia I have made several observations. They are all as different among themselves as we
    English are. Their belief system is under constant discussion and theological fights of monumental proportions occur periodically. They pick up and move family and possessions all the time. The use of technology is weighed by its effect on their lifestyle and belief system, but they all use chainsaws. God and family are paramount. They love ice cream and will jump in a car to go somewhere at any opportunity. Sometimes they do not tell the truth. They are delightful people to work with. Their work ethic is strong, but there are some lazy ones. They are not all smart. Without a doubt they are an asset to a rural community.

  120. This article paints a somewhat rosier picture of the Amish up here than many of us who live with them have observed. And don't kid yourself - their Spartan 19th century lifestyle is punctuated with many more modern conveniences when they can get away with it. But they are by and large good neighbors.

  121. This poor family and the surrounding community have suffered a heinous, violent act and that they were so well interwoven prior is what will save them all.

  122. There are some useful pieces of information here, but it is an essentially superficial and confusing article. The Ordnung varies from congregation to congregation among, even the old order Amish, so what is permitted varies a great deal. E.G. where I live in upstate NY surrounded by Amish, they all have phones-outside of the house-do not have electricity and use buggies, and while their form of German (if you can call it that-because over the centuries it has become half English) at chapel, and at home, they all speak perfect English. Yes. some of the orders-I think the one where this took place are even stricter-no phones or working out of the house or farm-but that is actually a minority of the NY Amish. To confuse it there are lots of Menonites here now, who use cars and are more modern.

    Where i live there was just an incident of someone breaking in to an Amish hosue-ironically on drugs. Fortunatley nothing bad happened but they went out to the phone booth near the hosue and immediatley called the state troopers. With lareg families, and very littler infant mortality, as existed in the past. the alrge families make farming impossible for all the boys, so they do work among us-which as time goes on erodes their separateness.

  123. Children who are abused suffer life-long trauma.

  124. The peaceful cooperation between the Amish and the English stands as a model for other regions where traditional religions and secular modernity intersect. Like, say, the Middle East.

  125. Having worked and dealt with Amish communities before I've seen myself the way woman can be treated in such communities. I never saw anything bad, certainly nothing that would be illegal or necessarily abusive (though I'm sure some of the militant feminists I met in college would have a field day) but women and their problems within the Amish community certainly face a harder time to be recognized than in the world at large. I think it would be an interesting piece for the NYT to follow up and actually see how the family is dealing with the trauma this will cause the two girls.

    It wasn't too long ago that they reported on the issues faced by sexual assault victims in the Ultra Conservative Jewish communities.

  126. To those who suggest that the Amish brainwash their kids and limit their choices while we don't, consider how popular culture floods our children's brains with propaganda for the consumerist, conformist lifestyle. Our girls aspire to be like Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga, theirs like their mother or a community elder. Because they live their faith deeply, from the heart and not just the rulebook, the Amish bring a quality of love to the healing process that the rest of us can only admire, which is why I suspect these girls will be in far better hands than if they saw a therapist they barely knew. Not long ago a half dozen Amish girls were killed in a schoolhouse in PA, and the response was to forgive the murderer and invite his family to the funerals. These are extraordinary (though of course not perfect) human beings who live their spirituality in ways that we can only imagine, and have a achieved a happiness and peace that we can only admire.

  127. I live in Hannawa Falls, NY (not far from Heuvelton and Oswegatchie), and I often see the Amish working and "driving" around. Sometimes, I talk with them, though conversations are usually limited to vegetables, farming or basket making.

    I just wanted to thank the New York Times for sending a reporter and photographer up here (it's about an eight-hour drive from the City, four hours from Albany and there's no way to get here unless you drive).

    Semple and Brooks captured a lot of the nuance around the mixing between the Amish and we "English." Good job.

    And this terrible episode involving those young girls has brought our two communities together. We English are watching out for the Amish more now. Silver lining, I guess, but - because there are so few people up here - our reliance on one another forms bonds that are likely to endure.

  128. We should be far more concerned with why our mainstream society produces such worthless human refuse such as the two kidnappers. The Amish are considered an asset to my state's rural communities, although our puppy mill legislation a few years ago exposed the less attractive aspects of their culture.

  129. As the survivor of a sexual crime, I surely hope someone will get those poor girls some profession therapy and help to be able to deal with their experience. It took me YEARS to come to grips with what had happened to me. I hope their lives will not be ruined by the actions of 2 crazy people and they will be able to recover from this.

  130. sounds to me like heaven on earth - no cars, no television sets, no movies, no radios, no telephones. I have never in 82 years owned a car or television set, and wouldn't. I have probably seen a total of 3/4 hours of television, by accident - in friends' homes, hotels and shop windows.

  131. I was very touched by this article. Amidst all the strife and struggle described elsewhere in the paper, this gave me a small measure of hope. Imagine a people who live modestly in harmony with their neighbors. Who by their own choice live close to the land and by God's rules as they understand them. No techno-craziness and a low carbon footprint. Wonderful.
    I don't believe I have the discipline to live as they do, but I admire them just the same.
    Let me also say that my heart goes out to the two young girls. No one should have to suffer what they did. I don't know what other help will be available to them, but a strong supporting family and community is worth a great deal.

  132. What I take away from this story is this: When it comes right down to it, we're all just people – and most of us are pretty good towards and for each other – whether its in our daily uneventful lives or, in this case, in times of crisis, whether Amish or non.

    As an aside, I reside in a rural upstate NY village where the Amish are prevalent.

  133. God bless these good and godly people. As the man says in the article, you couldn't ask for better neighbors. The Amish who live near me are fine, cheerful, friendly people who have brought back to life many farms that otherwise would have been abandoned or turned into suburban style tract housing -- farms that couldn't make it when the farmer had to invest in expensive machinery but now, under the non-mechanized hands of the Amish, are prospering. I hope they put the miscreants who hurt those girls under the jail house.

  134. It seems highly unlikely the two young victims will get the therapy they need to process their trauma. The Amish are too insular for their own good.

  135. Not only do kids get abducted, they just walk off. In the modern world, we even protect our pets against this with licenses and i.d.'s. When folks don't allow medical care for their kids, the state often intervenes. Amish are nice people, so apparently, endangering their children is ok.

  136. My words may echo those already expressed in this space, but, having traveled a few times into the more well-known Amish areas of Pennsylvania, I can attest to the faith-filled life and strong sense of community of these people. They are humble and deeply respectful people, who take their beliefs very seriously, even to the point of forgiving those who have "trespassed against them," such as in response to the murder of Amish girls in their school house some years ago. No doubt, they will extend the same attitude to these two individuals. While we may not be able or willing to emulate fully how the Amish live, we would do well to take a few pages from their book as to how to live harmoniously despite great differences.

  137. I will bet that they do not have the problems with kids getting stupid tattoos or body piercings or having their hat in backwards

  138. Interesting article--I suppose--if you aren't familiar with the Amish in general, but it didn't mention the degree to which this Amish family will or will not pursue the prosecution of the sick people who kidnapped and abused their children.

    Some Amish will avoid the court system altogther--whenever possible.

  139. The horse and buggy are fine, as I used to keep a neighbor's horse myself, and play cowboy on the weekends, until one day, the horse refused to stop, when I was riding it, and then threw me down, but as a Christian, I believe that they need a good dose of modernity. Their belief in God should include a recognition that God has blessed humanity with the skills to create technologically advanced things for our benefit and comfort, while we are passing through life.

  140. There are many Amish families in parts of rural Wisconsin. I grew up in an area there that had some Amish farmers and as an adult lived in two different areas of rural Wisconsin that had sizeable Amish communities. While there are many admirable aspects to the Amish lifestyle - in contrast to the increasingly decadent trashy mainstream American lifestyle - the usual media supericial coverage of the Amish almost always misses some of the downside of Amish life. One example - scenes of an Amish barn raising . What could be more idyllic? Look closer and you will see young teenage boys 20 feet or higher in the air, on a beam with no safety harness or line, no hard hat, no regard for the most basic safety precautions that should be used on a building site. It's great that young teenage boys are learning how to work but maybe they should be learning a little commonsense too.

  141. I learnt about Amish during my visits to Lancaster and their life-style seems to be too good to be true. The way they deal with troublesome events like this really bolstered my respect for this community. I guess, unless you are born into this culture and practice it while young, it is difficult to adopt their hard way of life, both morally and physically, even if any of us like to escape the materialistic world order. God bless them with peace and strength.

  142. I lived several years among the Amish in Pennsylvania. I don't envy them their worldview. Basically they keep everything simple and work, work, work to avoid temptation because if they succumbed to it they would not enter paradise in the next life. The men are extremely sexist, and they treat their animals very harshly. A lot of puppy mills are run by Amish under deplorable conditions.

  143. This article paints a glowing picture of the Amish which glosses over
    a misogynistic community in which incest and sexual abuse of women is known to be rampant, to the extent that I’d thought that the story was going to end with the father being apprehended as the perpetrator.
    Given that “The Amish try to work out internal disputes amongst themselves and seek to avoid the mainstream judicial system”, that there are no phone from which to dial 911, and that even if there were,a victim who did so,possessive of no more than an 8th grade education with no knowledge of navigating the real world would have no place to go,if she were to report
    said crime,reports of incest and other sexual crimes that are perpetrated by members of the Amish community the Amish community likely remain unreported or vastly underreported.
    Sadly,the author uses the abduction of the two as little more than a springboard for a story about the Amish.There is no mention whatever about how the sisters are faring, how the family and community plans to address their trauma,given that the Amish do not believe in having health insurance. Will these girls be offered trauma counseling of any kind,which they will surely need? Is there a psychologist who specialized in the counseling of trauma victims among the non-Amish neighbors?We know that no one in the Amish community can be a trauma counselor,given that no one has more than an 8th grade education.
    I hope the girls get the help they need a.

  144. Our children mean everything to us and there is nothing more important for a parent than to keep their kids safe. I felt very sorry to hear the story. I urge parents to always teach their children how to protect themselves.

    There are many unfortunate situations when we have heard of families that have to deal with their children being molested by someone that they knew and maybe even trusted. This could have been a relative, friend of the family or any other familiar person. The truth is that it doesn't really matter who is the perpetrator of the abuse because the damage will be something that this child will carry through his or her entire life.

    I hope every parent could avoid the mistake of postponing this important discussion with their children.

    this is an important process that involves showing their children how to be prepared for unsafe or abusive situations. They learn which parts of their body are private and this teach them how to recognize when someone is touching them in a way that is inappropriate.

    This is the kind of knowledge that could easily help your children avoid a situation that would end up scarring them for life.

    The most valuable thing that we have is our children. In serving the best interests of children, by teaching them how to protect themselves, we serve the best interests of humanity.

  145. Why can't all religions, Christian and non-Christian, find their example in the peace-loving Amish.

    The newspaper headlines would be radically different.

  146. I am a parent and not a member of a conservative religious group, but like those who are, I struggle to raise a child when my own values differ from those of the mainstream. While the specific values I question may differ from theirs, the sense that I am at odds with the world around me is familiar, and the questions about what would be best for my child are often present. Like all of us, the Amish people must occasionaly make compromises that enable them to function. I wonder if, following this harrowing incident, Amish people might agree to have pictures taken of their children not for purposes of display or vanity, but to have available in extreme circumstances such as this.

  147. My brother and I used to ice skate at a small rink in Hershey PA and about 1/2 the other kids were Amish. They did not interact with us much mostly sticking to themselves but were always friendly when we did talk. I will never forget walking into the bathroom to find it full of Amish boys smoking cigarettes! We all stared at each other for a moment and then they all laughed.

    Not germane to the article but this has always stuck in my mind.

  148. It seems God looked away for a moment, but the two communities did not. And that made all the difference.

    Why does such trust and friendship among neighbors seem so impossible today in so many different places across America, especially in our urban centers?

  149. I live part of the time in SE Wisconsin and part of the time in SE Iowa. I have lived in both states for many years. In SE Iowa there are many Amish and Mennonite families. I respect them and their culture and hope they maintain their customs and language and religious beliefs even though I live myself in a fully modern world. I often prefer to hire the Amish for construction as they are honest and efficient. I enjoy shopping at the Amish and Mennonite stores. There is a great one in Cantril, Iowa. I attend a medical clinic in Memphis, MO and find the waiting room has quite a few of my neighbors. One old timer in Iowa pointed out that Iowa lends itself well to what he called "colonies." In other words diverse cultures. I have been following the articles on the kidnapping of the two Amish girls and it is distressing.

  150. It the Amish were the worst ill of our 'modern' world, life would be kinder gentler for us all...

  151. If aliens from another world came to our planet and landed in an Amish community, the Amish would welcome them, feed them and give them shelter.

    If the aliens landed instead in ISIS-controlled territory, they would be beheaded for being "non-believers."

  152. I think the children should be given a choice whether they wish to continue their education beyond Grade 8.No family or community own their children and they should let the children decide.

  153. By the time I got to the article's conclusion, I was actually holding back tears. First, for what the two Amish girls had to endure. No doubt, they were raised in a less complicated, trusting and loving environment, and that trust was violated. Hopefully, back in their loved one's embrace, healing can begin.
    Second, it is heartwarming to read and be reminded that there are people who try their best to respect their neighbors while determined to hold fast to what they believe in. If only others worldwide could try to follow this credo.
    Perhaps the Amish know and practice what far too few know or put into action- that we were actually put here to help one another and the way to do that is to cobble together a life that is both self sufficient and interdependent. I guess though that this is seen as outmoded since it has little to do with collecting things, hording wealth and 'getting ahead in life'.