Despite strong repressive efforts of the state churches, the movement spread slowly around western Europe, primarily along the Rhine.
The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states.
Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their radical belief in believer's baptism.
Mennonite congregations worldwide embody the full scope of Mennonite practice from "plain people" to those who are indistinguishable in dress and appearance from the general population.
Mennonites can be found in communities in at least 87 countries on six continents.
The pacifist branches often survived by seeking refuge in neutral cities or nations, such as Strasbourg.
Their safety was often tenuous, as a shift in alliances or an invasion could mean resumed persecution.
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By 1530, most of the founding leaders had been killed for refusing to renounce their beliefs.