French Mennonites embrace a new genre

Manga comic shares uplifting youth group story

Sangal Goldschmidt’s new book is the first Mennonite manga. — Éditions Mennonites Sangal Goldschmidt’s new book is the first Mennonite manga. — Éditions Mennonites

The world’s first Mennonite ­manga does not come from Japan, home to the predominantly black-and-white stylized comics enjoyed by people of all ages.

It is a product of France, where Sangal Goldschmidt wrote and illustrated a new book about members of a church youth group who get to know each other and discuss the Bible over a weekend in the countryside. The publishing house Éditions Mennonites released Le Deuxième Pas (The Second Step) in July.

Strong emotions are typical of manga, with a heavy focus on faces and expressive eyes. These elements come to the fore in Le Deuxième Pas when one member of the youth group returns after a long period of absence.

“He doesn’t seem to be well,” said Goldschmidt, known in online art circles as Christy Moonlight. “Throughout the manga we discover how the characters relate to each other and follow two group leaders as they try to help.

“I hope to give the reader a taste of hope. Whether it is a group of friends, church members or the church itself, it is really beautiful to see a group dynamic based on mutual edification. This does not mean that we are perfect but that we seek together the peace (shalom) of God.”

Goldschmidt’s influences converge on the pages of this, her first book. In elementary school, she watched Japanese cartoons, which are popular in France — the second biggest manga market outside Japan. Her favorite series is “Magical DoReMi,” a colorful cartoon about students who use magic to help their classmates.

“I’m touched by the moral lesson of each episode,” she said, adding that even adults can watch cartoons, which are often more wholesome than movies. “The heroines never let each other down, no matter the difficulties and tears. They often choose to forgive, love, help — even if it means sacrificing something dear to them.”

There is also the influence of the church. After attending Christian summer camps during school breaks and attending the Mennonite church in Pulsversheim, she was baptized at 17.

“The love they shared, I wanted it too. They looked so . . . complete,” she said. “Since then I have remained attached to Mennonite churches, and I am joining the Mennonite church in Altkirch.”

Michel Sommer, coordinator of a publishing team within Éditions Mennonites, said the project is a good fit for the publisher’s desire to build interest among young people. Until now, most of its books have been academic works on theology. This represents the organization’s openness to new ideas.

“The response is positive, in particular during a tour of Mennonite churches,” Sommer said. “She leads a youth group meeting and/or preaches a sermon in relation to the manga with someone from Éditions Mennonites. We sell rather well at these events.”

Meanwhile, Goldschmidt is studying art in college. She doesn’t necessarily want to make a living exclusively from producing manga but would happily combine it with another job.

“Yes, I have other projects in mind and others that are being discussed. Christian manga is a field to be cultivated,” she said. “But above all, I want to do God’s will. I listen to him.

“If you want to follow me, don’t hesitate! @christymoonlight on Instagram and Facebook.”

Tim Huber

Tim Huber is associate editor at Anabaptist World. He worked at Mennonite World Review since 2011. A graduate of Tabor College, Read More

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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