FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 3rd, 2014
The Amish – Shunned
on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Premieres Tuesday, February 4th from 8-10:00 p.m. on WTVP-HD 47.1.
- Paul Edwards joined the Amish church at 17 but was excommunicated after a falling out. -
What is it like to be cut off from your faith and your family? The Amish: Shunned,
airing Tuesday, February 4th from 8-10:00pm on WTVP-HD 47.1, follows seven people who have
chosen to leave their closed and tightly-knit communities for the outside world, knowing they can
never return. Each has paid deeply for their decision. Estranged from loved ones, these former
Amish find themselves struggling to make their way in modern America.
To the Amish, shunning is an essential tenet of their faith, a way to maintain the
strength and viability of a tight-knit community, and a way to help protect them from the onslaught
of modern culture. Forms of shunning vary between different groups of Amish, and even between
families, but the practice exists to remind church members who break their vows of their disobedience
in the hope of winning them back. It is an agonizing decision for parents, relatives, and friends to
sever ties with loved ones whom they believe to be eternally condemned after having made the
decision to leave.
Many who leave face challenging obstacles: no birth certificates or social security
numbers, language barriers since English is not their primary language, and the lack of a support
network in the outside world. Young people who leave know that their families will disapprove, and
some, particularly from stricter communities, run away without saying goodbye to avoid a painful
confrontation. They shoulder the burden of knowing their families will wake up to an empty room and
the realization they may never see their child again -- in this life or the next.
In 2012, American Experience
presented The Amish, an in-depth look at the history, beliefs and traditions of the insular religious community. But
that film, which encored January 28th and February 4th leading into this premiere, barely scratched the
surface of the concept of shunning, one of the faith's defining characteristics and most controversial
practices. Having spent two years building trust with several Amish people in various communities, the
producers of The Amish set out to find individuals whose stories would portray the breadth and
variety of shunning. What they found was that the reality of shunning was much more complicated and
heartbreaking than they could have imagined.
Revealing the pain of those who leave and the suffering of those left behind,
The Amish: Shunned is the story of people confronted with difficult choices.
Whether out in the world for weeks or decades, the former Amish people featured in the film struggle
to create a new sense of community. Interwoven with their stories are the voices of staunchly loyal
Amish men and women who explain the importance of obedience, the strong ties and traditions that
bind them together, and the heartbreak they feel when a loved one falls away. Through its sympathetic
portrayal of both sides, the film explores what is gained and what is lost when community and tradition
are exchanged for individuality and freedom.
For further information contact Stacey Tomczyk, WTVP Interim Program
Director, at (309) 495-0591 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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