How do we apply a gender perspective on faith-based peacebuilding?

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How do we apply a gender perspective on faith-based peacebuilding?

Use these questions to help kick off this discussion thread:

  • Which strategies are used by women activists to overcome the obstacles listed in the previous thread?
  • What strategies do women use to enhance the empowerment within religious institutions/structures?
  • Should women peacemakers work for change within the current religious/ faith-based structures, or should they create their own alternative structures to work for transformative change?
  • What role can men play in ensuring faith-based peacebuilding is gender-sensitive?  
  • Are there examples of good practices? Please share!

Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to an existing comment!

Strategies to be used by women activists to overcome the obstacl

Women should work together, by exchanging ideas and expriences, and by replicating successful examples and sharing good examples. Most important is that more time should be devoted for researching all of the religion books and teachings, having in mind the fact that most of the religion interpretations include certain degrees of interests, some things can be highletd more while others can be kept to lower degrees so that the reader can only see and understand what the interpreter wants her or him to understand. 

Ensuring that women are at the peace table in Afghanistan

Mekka n wrote:

Women should work together, by exchanging ideas and expriences, and by replicating successful examples and sharing good examples.

Yes!  Let's share some examples!

I came across an article on the US Institute of Peace (USIP) titled The Afghan Peace Jirga: Ensuring that Women are at the Peace Table May 2010 by Palwasha Hassan.  The article describes the changing role of Afghan women in the ongoing peacebuilding work in their country.  It has been a very long road for these women peacemakers, but their work has not been in vein.  Their acheivements are opening new possibilities for women in Afghanistan.  Women lobbied hard for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Peace Jirga in 2007 and managed to convince the government to accept them as participants. [I wish the article went into greater detail about how they were able to do this, but it does not.]  The article describes other acheivements:

In 2007, women came together in holy shrines in Kandahar to call on warring parties to stop fighting, and to raise awareness about the suffering of women and children. That same year, women in Kabul visited every mosque to call on combatants to cease using religion to justify suicide attacks. In 2008, women in Kabul and throughout the provinces started wearing blue scarves to signify their opposition to war, and to send the message that the suffering of war knows no borders or ethnicity. Women are also issuing position statements in response to policies that concern their rights. For example, they are asking the government to protect their constitutional rights and ensure that women’s rights are not compromised for the sake of national security or as part of some deal with the Taliban.

All of these acheivements have led to a stronger women's movement in Afghanistan - the basis for creating space for women to play a larger role in peacebuilding. Now, women in the middle and lower-middle classes have more opportunities to participate in the political scene.  There are more women-led organizations in the remote areas that help to bridge the sociocultural and geographical divides.  Also, the international community is taking a strong role in empowering Afghan women to participate in peacebuilding.  The USIP article states:

...the incorporation of gender-mainstreaming strategies in international reconstruction efforts is helping to bring women out of seclusion following six years of social and political isolation under the Taliban regime. The Bonn Agreement paved the way for institutional changes by eliminating restrictions on women’s public participation and by envisioning the creation of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Since then, there has been a chain of events leading to the increased participation of women in the political sphere. For example, 100 women delegates participated in the Constitutional Loya Jirga. In addition, 28 percent of parliamentary seats are now allocated to women, and women also have reserved seats in the provincial councils.3 Women now have the opportunity to run for high level decision-making bodies, including for the office of the presidency.

Similarly, post-conflict reconstruction efforts spearheaded by international actors are paying attention to women’s rights and assist in connecting Afghan women’s groups to larger networks and international organizations. Capacity-building projects as well as female economic entrepreneurship is actively encouraged by donor countries.

A few questions came to mind when reading this article:

  • How important is the develoment of womens movement (like the one in Afghanistan) to strengthen the role of women in faith-based peacebuilding?
  • What role does (or should) the international community play in strengthening the role of women in peacebuilding efforts where religion is involved?
  • Do you have similar examples to share?
Research + devotion

Dear Mekka,

I embrace your idea of coming together to go over the texts and finding persuasive arguments for women's presence.  We need time to share best practices and ideas to create praxis. Women are making inroads in almost all sectors but I see a huge class divide at least in the US between elite and everyday women which we need to unmask, dismantle and overcome to transform society. Having a sense of sacred justice at the center of our work and making discernment and understanding of the texts in dialogue with our experience, will lead to engaged collective action.

Sharing of experiences - Internet

Hi Mekka

Yes, indeed, there is a great need to share ideas, and experiences. I think the internet can play a major role in this (look at us in our this online dialogue! - how exciting!), since it can faciliate this process. 

I do acknowledge Patricia's comment regarding the division between everyday women and elite, and we should be careful the internet is not contributing to widening the gap. 

In this regard, I was thinking of the work of " The Violence is Not our Culture Campaign" and I wanted to highlight this. 

The Violence is Not our Culture (VNC) Campaign (http://www.stop-stoning.org/ ) is a global network of organisations and individuals committed to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women being justified in the name of culture / religion. It was launched on 25 November 2007 with then UN Special Rapporteur on VAW Yakin Ertürk in Istanbul and has, since then, established its presence in Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It has been active in engaging with states and the UN human rights system to acknowledge the relentless misuse of culture and religion to violate women's basic  rights and freedoms. 

I greatly appreciate their Toolkit on Online Activism, with helpful tips and advices, and I wanted to share this one here as well: http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/files/Strategising%20Online%20Act...

Strategies to be used by women activists to overcome the obstacl

I am sorry to join the dialogue rather late but I have enjoyed reading the contributions. They have profound insights!


I would like to share from my own experience which I am sure is not unique but from it I would like to point out that when we talk about religion and it’s role in empowering women in peacebuilding, there are different levels of empowerment.


The World Bank WDR 2000/2001 and the Voices of the Poor study highlighted the complexity of the meaning of the word empowerment. They argued the term empowerment has different meanings in different sociocultural and political contexts, and does not translate easily into all languages. An exploration of local terms associated with empowerment around the world always leads to lively discussion. These terms include self-strength, control, self-power, self-reliance, own choice, life of dignity in accordance with one’s values, capable of fighting for one’s rights, independence, own decision making, being free, awakening, and capability—to mention only a few. These definitions are embedded in local value and belief systems[1]


I find these definitions forming the premise by which we must consider the different forms and levels of empowerment of women through religion in peacebuilding.  In this regard I also agree that there needs to be some level of cautiousness in assuming we know what another religion stands for. This is because religion forms worldviews/belief systems of people and I find for example in Christianity the different contexts have different interpretations. In Kenya today there are women who have defied the male dominated order of religious institutions leadership and there are hundreds of women who have been ordained as Bishops, Reverends and Pastors not to name the deacons and elders. While in my view the door opened for these women simply because the churches had very few male members, and the percentage is still minimal, but still it creates a platform that can be used to interpret the Bible from a woman’s perspective. So I would say there is some level of freedom opened up which for example I do not find in the church in Netherlands where in many Christian churches women are still not allowed to be Ministers.


The other level which I would call the self-strength empowerment, the religious institutions in Kenya during the violence in 2007, gave women the platform, the institution facilities (meeting places) and sometimes the funds to work for peace. I personally benefited from religious institutions and individual churches donating funds to support my work as a pro-democracy activist in 1991-92. I had just come out from college. I felt treated like a second class citizen who has nothing to contribute by the men in the society. But the religious institutions accepted to support me. Just the fact that I could fight for my right to live in a democratic country empowered me to some level and the rest of the process followed and I have never been the same. I want to imagine this would be the experience of many women at the grassroots and though the patriarchy structures are still there and need to be addressed. My culture was more oppressive than the patriarchy in the church concerning this issue. Even people like Wangari Maathai gained national support as a woman because she was supported by the religious leaders.


I have shared all these to point out that when looking at ways of overcoming obstacles, it will be of value to first identify all these different levels of empowerment and build a case to re-interpreting the scriptures from a woman’s perspective coming from the known to the unknown.


The biggest challenge as has been already highlighted is the fact that there is very little documentation on the good practices. The other challenge that I see is the fact that we need to agree that we will need women from different contexts to interpret for their contexts. Many times when we go across cultures/religions we are trapped in our own culturally/religious imposed boundaries and therefore are not able to be empathetic and to be flexible and really let the people in the context and religion lead the way so that it is effective. Letting the women from the different cultures and religions lead the process of re-interpretation might mean us putting aside all that we have known to be true about gender and religion like  Mekka pointed out that sometimes we take media images.


I find this important because as practitioners the cost of not being able to break through our own resistance to change is we might lose the ability to be empathetic to the situations/contexts of the women in the grassroots and therefore lose credibility and trust. Without trust coming together will just be for us but not have impact with the people who need to confront partriarchy structures for their own rights. The first step to build trust is to give trust.


 

[1] http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT/Resources/486312-10950...

What strategies do women use to enhance the empowerment within

I remember when I was 19 and decided to study theology. I wanted to become a minister, now I’m 37 and a Lawyer. I remember having the naïve idea that because we are created equal under the eyes of G-D, I would be treated in the same manner by my colleagues, professors and other ministers, and that I would be given an equal opportunity of what I though was the way I wanted to serve G-D. However, soon I realised that much less was expected from me than from my male peers. I was supposed to become the wife of a minister and be a help to his ministry.

So when I think about the question “What strategies do women use to enhance the empowerment within religious institutions/structures?” All I can think of, in the Christian context, is to be bold, courageous, and not shy. Infiltrate religious institutions in all its structure. Aspire to be a religious leader with your own voice, and Influence the interpretation of your sacred texts. Apply a gender perspective in your leadership and your teachings.

Inspire other women to be an active part of their spiritual beliefs and a force for change. Women in leadership positions in their religious denominations is the best way to make sure that a gender perspective is present in religious institutions.

I would love to hear other stories or experiences about empowerment within religious institutions, anyone would like to share?

Women need to be creative and strategic

In the interfaith consultation in 2010 the participants voiced the need to create their own safe spaces for women of faith to strategize on how to challenge gender discrimination and change religious institutions from within since denouncing their religion was not an option, and many religious women do not feel understood by secular women NGOs.

Women have to be creative in their approaches and strategic in whom to involve. Several women shared how besides opposition they also experienced sometimes unexpected support from religious figures on lower levels within the religious institutions. Religious leaders in their communities can be easier to approach since they are closer to the people and the reality of women than religious leaders higher up the hierarchy. Winning these leaders as allies can be a first step in changing discriminatory structures, strategically looking for boundary points could be a way for cooperation on a lower level which could help create a stronger basis to work from. Male and female religious leaders on mid-level can act as mediators in terms of reaching high-level male religious leaders.

Since religious leaders are more often than not men, the women also discussed the possibility of involving men in their struggle. Agreeing that women should be lead by strong female role models, involving progressive men as a strategy to achieve their goal was still important for most of the women.

Men are also victims of violent systems and would gain from deconstructing rigid gender norms. Emphasizing that not the men are the problems but fundamentalist thinking is, could help forming men into allies.

a few conclusions and questions

Hi Merle

I can draw the following conclusions and think of the following questions from your response and invite others to reflect on these points as well:

  1. The need to create safe spaces for women of faith to strategize and challenge gender discrimination and provoke changes in religious institutions from within. How do we built a safe space and what does safety imply?
  2. There is a discomfort between religious women or women working within faith and non-religious women or women working form a secular perspective. Can we develop that idea? And how can we build bridges amongst both groups of women?
  3. The importance to have alliances with religious leaders sympathetic with our struggle. However, I wonder how can we develop these alliances without compromising the basic values of gender equality and non-discrimination? Is it possible at all levels?
  4. The need of strong female role models and, at the same time, the involvement of progressive men. What do we mean when we say strong female role models? What would be the reasons for involving men? How can our struggle benefit with their involvement or support? And what level of involvement are we thinking?
Safety + Language Issues

Hi Sandra

Great questions and thanks for posing these!

I'd like to share some thoughts related to the first and third one. I think there are a few issues related to the creation of safe spaces. First of all, I think its important that the spaces which are created for women are safe for women to be able to attend these spaces, e.g.; are they easy to reach, is it time-wise convenient for them etc? Secondly, there is the issue of women joining the spaces while feeling safe and expecting to be able to feel safe. I think in this regard, its crucial to ask the women who will attend, what they need in order to feel safe, as well as feeling supported. I think these two feelings are closely intertwined. Is it the establishment of and agreement on ground rules for discussion, is it important for these women to first strategize and share experiences within a group of women of their own religious denomination, or for instance sharing experiences with women from different faith? Since the feeling of safety is not one which can be generalized I think, since the individual experience is crucial, asking this question is important. 

With regard to your third question, I was thinking of the importance of language. I do think alliances can be developed and examples are there. In another discussion topic, I just shared the example of a Muslim woman, who was supported by Muslim men in obtaining her divorce. I hope others in this dialogue will share more and other examples. In the WPP Interfaith Consultation, women noted there exists a lot of ignorance among women in terms of what religious texts actually say. One of the participants said: “We are submitting to religious authorities, allowing women’s rights to be undermined, yet the more I read and interpret religious texts myself, the more I feel liberated...” . She stated that women needed to go back to the texts and study them instead of just relying on male religious leaders’ interpretations. In order to be able to challenge religious leaders, but also to build alliances with religious leaders, it’s important to speak the language of the religious leaders, and to have knowledge of the religious scriptures. I think building alliances is about trying to build a common language.

 

Hi Sandra, Thanks for listing

Hi Sandra,


Thanks for listing the questions above, they give a nice strating point for further discussion, and Jose already gave some answers to some of them. In regard to your point 4, I would like to emphasize that I find it important to avoid any kind of generalization about women (and men in that matter). As said in other discussion threats in this dialogue, I do think that not all women in leadership position, be it in religious communities or any secular settings, are per se working for the advancement of women's rights and gender equality. In that sense in my eyes female role models are the one who do challenge existing oppressive structures, and are not afraid to speak out. Since we are here discussing religion and faithbased peacebuiding, I think about women who are challenging male oriented interpretations of sacred texts. In this dialogue we had numerous quotes of the different religious texts showing that a gender-sensitive interpretation proves those wrong who say that the inferiority of women is part of their religion.


Related to the above I would also like to point out that I see gender-sensitive faithbased peacebuilding not as peacebuidling where the protagonist just acknowledge the difference in positions and roles of women and men in society, but that this involves also challenging those positions and roles.


The reasons to involve men for me are several. To start with, just very simple: Men are the other half of the world's population. If women want to achieve longlasting change of patriarchal structures in religion, politics, etc, we do need to involve the other half.


Gender-sensitive men are out there. Just as women are not by definition gender-sensitive or in favour of women's empowerment, men are not per se in favour of structures which are discriminating towards women. (Some) men also struggle with the assigned gender definitions and the expectations towards them as men. These men we need to involve as allies on the same level. This involves of course good communication of what women expect from them in their cooperation, men need to listen to the women and their needs. And, as I said at another point in this discussion: Men listen more to other men, therefore working together with progressive men can help advance gender equality in peacebuilding and therefore society.

Are there examples of good practices? Please share!

My name is Jackie Ogega and I am very glad to represent IANSA and Religions for Peace in this session. I serve as the Director of the Women's Program at Religions for Peace, and I am a member of IANSA Women's Network.

Women of faith are on the frontlines of their communities contributing positively and in many ways to peacebuilding and human flourishing.  But there is minimal documentation of successful models and good practices on promoting the roles of women of faith in peacebuilding.I would like to share a model of good practice from Religions for Peace, an international non-sectarian organization expressely dedicated to promoting peace among religious communities (www.religionsforpeace.orgReligions for Peace works to transform violent conflict, advance human development, promote just and harmonious societies, and protect the earth. Creating and strengthening multi-religious networks is the core task of Religions for Peace. Since its inception in 1970, Religions for Peace has established 6 regional and 80 national Inter-Religious Councils (IRCs) across the world.  Composed of men and women representing diverse religious communities, these IRCs align around common challenges to peace and offer ways to utilize the complementary strengths of their different faiths.  

But the inequalities inherent in religious institutions can easily be trasnferrable to inter-religious organizations. Therefore, Religions for Peace works to strengthen the capacity and participation of women of faith by building a Global Women of Faith Network. In establishing and building the Global Women of Faith Network, Religions for Peace endeavors to demonstrate that the Network is a desired platform that lifts up, strengthens and supports the unique contributions of women of faith engaging religious assets for peace.  The network of networks utilizes multi-religious cooperation to efficiently advance the capacity of women of faith not only to promote the importance of women’s rights, but also remain fundamental religious actors and a powerful source of support for multi-religious action to achieve peace, human flourishing and rights for all. Over the past decade, the Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network consists of more than one thousand religious women’s organizations, witnessing their leadership in responding to crises and resolving conflict.   The network, with its national and regional affiliates in thirty countries and five continents, provides a common forum that facilitates communication, coordination, and the exchange of insights that stimulate creative common action for peace among women of different faiths. It also provides a powerful impetus toward mainstreaming women of faith as leaders in multi-religious forums.The common action includes partnership with IANSA to prevent violence related to small arms and light weapons.

Challenges persist that lead me to raise the following questions for discussion:

Where are the resources to sustain such initiatives that focus on the potentially postive role that religion can play in the lives of women as agents of peace? Such resources would include programming as well as research

How can we ensure that women of faith are integrated as vital voices, decision makers, and partners at every level throughout mainstream religious institutions?

How do we bridge the divide between secular women, and women with religious belief, so that they can build strong coalitions for peace that draw on their particular resources?

How do we avoid essentializing women?

Women, peace,gender and religion

In many cases we can see clearly how scriptures are interpreted within the religious institutions in a way that serves men and make them  dominate more and control women's lives. Religion is awesome, if it is used to serve women rights and make of women a real partner  not an inferior .  Much violence has been practiced against woemen in the name of religion. Women has been  attacked, deprives of basic and human rights. Unfortunately, there are lots of women whom I talked to have been convinced that it is aq sin to say no to  a dominate man in her family, community.. etc, why because the scriptures say so. These women believe that they are created by God only to serve men and fullfill their demands. On the other hand , I have met men who do really believe in the potential of women and that they should be partners in all walks of life. I would say , no peace without  women participation. We should  empower women and include them in all aspects of life, religious institutions, political and social. How can we di this? we as women peacemakers and activists should start by ourselves and work hard to raise awareness campaigns that raise awareness among women in religious issues that touches women position in life. Women should be confident and know that GOd created them, because they are awesome and can change. We should work with men allies  who believe in  women capacity and marvellous role in life.Let's work for a healthy world where women are no more inferior to men because they are not so in the eyes of God.


Thanks to all for the great ideas and work.


Hana Kirreh

Religion beyond theology

I agree with you Hana. The misuses of religion to justify the subjugation of women must be actively rejected and condemned.

I believe that there are other understandings of religion beyond scripture and theological components. In my research and work, I apply a sociological perspective to analyze gender and religion. The case I make is that religion must also be understood from a sociological perspective - so how does the sociology of religion impact women's roles in peacebuilding? I am not a theologian, and this helps me build on the very helpful scripture-based interpretations. I think more work ought to be done on the sociological components of religion though, as it impacts gender.

Jackie Ogega

Religions for Peace

Building stronger networks of women of faith

IANSA Women wrote:

In establishing and building the Global Women of Faith Network, Religions for Peace endeavors to demonstrate that the Network is a desired platform that lifts up, strengthens and supports the unique contributions of women of faith engaging religious assets for peace. 

Thank you, Jackie, for sharing this information on the Global Women of Faith Network!  In 2006, 400 religious women leaders from 65 countries of the world and from the world’s major faith traditions gathered in Kyoto, Japan for Religions for Peace Women’s Assembly.  Together, these women wrote a Declaration that included key recommendations to the Religions for Peace Main Assembly.  These recommendations were for religous leaders, Religions for Peace, United Nations, CSOs, NGOs and women of faith.  The recommendations specifically for Religions of Peace included:

  • Facilitate networking and information sharing and promote dialogue and cooperation among women and men of different faiths.
  • Generate and promote local knowledge, information and skills at local, grassroots, national, regional and international networking levels in conferences and consultations.
  • Create greater visibility of the potential and inalienable roles of women of faith to transform conflict, build peace and advance sustainable development.
  • Build a databank of religious women’s organizations and activities and be a contact point for needs and information on faith-based women’s organizations.
  • Coordinate Information gathering, documentation and dissemination.
  • Develop effective management of religion and gender-based knowledge so as to support faith-based organizations with tools and guides in efforts to mainstream women of faith into multi-religious policies and programs.
  • Enhance the capacities of religious leaders and provide opportunities for training and advocacy on needs-based thematic areas by context and region.
  • Create linkages and strengthen partnership and alliances among Women of faith networks with UN agencies, other faith-based organizations, governments and civil society organizations and groups.

Now that some time has passed, it would be helpful to know more about how you see the impact of this Declaration and recommendations.  Were some of these recommendations acted upon?  Did you find the process of developing the Declaration useful for the network?  Is the network planning another assembly to continue this planning process?  Your thoughts and reflections on this would be useful! 

What impact have others seen from conferences and assemblies bringing together women of faith to coordinate/collaborate on this work?

Monitoring Recommendations

Dear Kristin,

Sorry to respond belatedly. Every five years or so, Religions for Peace convenes a world assembly of all network members. The recommendations you have above are derived from the last world assembly, and became part of our strategic plan for 2007-2011 which you can access online at http://religionsforpeace.org/initiatives/women/plan.html

This action plan mandates that the recommendations be translated into programmatic and convening outcomes for the organization. The organization has done some substantive work in implementing the recommendations through its programs. We have a databank of religious women's rganizations. We have continued to provide trainings and other capacity building programs particularly in the area of gender mainstreaming, gender based violence and disarmament. An example of linkages built include working with IANSA, UN Women,WFDA, Governments particularly USAID, Norwegian MFA and Dutch. To illustrate, we have an array of partners working together on the restoring dignity initative aimed at increasing te role of religions in preventing violence against women - see more details on http://restoringdignity.religionsforpeaceinternational.org/, and essential tools have been developed such as the toolkit http://restoringdignity.religionsforpeaceinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Restoring-Dignity-A-Toolkit-for-Religious-Communities-to-End-Violence-Against-Women.pdf

Of course we have enormous challenges, including resource mobilization, coordination and sustainability of the work. I hope these are some examples to respond to your question, and we look forward to working together....

Jackie Ogega,

Religions for Peace

Gender Roles

IANSA Women wrote:

How do we avoid essentializing women?

Hi Jackie, 

Thanks for your comments and the questions you pose. I think it's important to not focus as such on women vs men. It’s important to acknowledge the different gender roles and its consequences. Excluding women from decision-making and the use of violence against women is something we can label as a war going on against women. There is a huge loss of people going on every day because of gender violence. It is one the biggest, most endemic wars we know. And this also applies to men, as current notions of masculinities trap everyone. Men, who are largely responsible for the violence committed against women, are also trapped in a story of ‘eat or be eaten’. Violence is glorified in all cultures, as it is used to define what it means to be a man, and that includes domination over women as a daily exercise of violence. And in the end, everyone loses out.

I’d like to share an example one activist shared during the WPP Interfaith Consultation, in relation to the opposition from (male) religious leaders. She shared a specific example of a female religious leader undermining her work for women’s rights. The woman, whom the participant had invited to one of her trainings, came in repeating what her husband – a conservative religious leader – had instructed her to say. She concluded: “Even if we involve women religious leaders, we still need to be very strategic; they don’t necessarily share our thinking just because they are women. We need to start by finding the feminist religious allies in this field as we go about it!”

Dear José,I couldnt agree

Dear José,

I couldnt agree more with you on engaging men, and focusing really on the systematic discrimination and patriarchal underpinnings that entrap both men and women in these cycles of violence. If we focus only on women, we will be addressing the symptoms. We must delve deep into the real problems present in structures, institutional practices, cultural norms, perceptions, attitudes - --- name it - ---- all of which undermine the inviolable dignity of all human beings. Again, restoring dignity initiative of Religions for Peace aims largely at restoring the dignity of women and girls http://restoringdignity.religionsforpeaceinternational.org/

I also want to share that I co-teach a course at the School for International Training in Vermont--CONTACT program for peacebuilding titled "men and women as partners in peacebuilding". Our goal (together with my colleague Steven Botkin) in this course is to promote the very principles you are laying out here José,  that unless women and men become equal partners, we cannot go very far in building sustainable peace. And partnership includes transforming negative constructions of masculinity and femininity that are barriers to building meaningful relationships among humans. More details on this summer peacebuilding program can be found on http://www.sit.edu/graduate/6638.htm

We have to keep on building the discourse, and modeling good practices.

Jackie Ogega

Religions for Peace

An example of the role of

An example of the role of religion in peace building comes from the 1992 Rift-valley land clashes in Kenya.  This paper concludes that religion helped women (Christian) peace builders used the Bible

“to condemn war and praise peace because they believed evil brings hatred, death, animosity and destruction of property… [that] war negates Jesus’ noble teachings of brotherly love and the golden rules of God. According to him, those who believe in Jesus can be voices of reason, sanity and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred and emotion. So women could set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace could be built.

The study also showed that

Through religion, women peace builders gained the strength, courage and inspiration to work harder than ever before because they believed that Jesus and Mohammed commissioned them to go into the world and preach peace.

Women used religion, workshops, conferences and their natural roles as mothers as the starting point to promote a culture of peace.

However, the study concludes that although women did use religion to influence fighting groups “to be true Christians and not flout Jesus’s teaching of brotherly love and the golden rules… to love their neighbours as they love themselves and to be good to their enemies” neither the government nor the international community recognized the important role they played. These women and many others like them need to be recognized, to have political space, resources and safety.

Strategies enhanced include-

Strategies enhanced include- bridge building, peace building, full understanding of the scripture to application level and advocacy on women’s human rights (BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights is a good example) Further more, Home building through marriage and child rearing are basic foundation for through girl child development. Good example of this lies in Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (Q3vs 44 and Q 66vs 12)

(Prof) Sabit Ariyo Olagoke

Executive Director

Center for Religious Cooperation and Tolerance (CRCT)

Email - centerprojects2004@gmail.com

Being ourselves well

Warm greetings of peace to all,


If we are women, and conscious, then we are bringing a gender perspective to everything we do. That is automatic. How we are who we are will have an immediate impact on everyone around us. If we are involved in a conversation, how we are as women will affect the conversation. If we are involved in a struggle, how we are as women will affect the struggle. There is no more powerful source of influence than human presence. Human presence benefits from careful cultivation. The Prophet used to pray, "O Sustainer, make me neither oppressor nor oppressed." There is a great key in that. I have observed that free people liberate those around them. That is also automatic. The context for the process is all contexts. Tactics, however, are not generalizable!

Role of men

Hi all, 

I'd like to share some experiences of some of the women of the WPP Interfaith Consultation, in regards to men's involvement. A participant shared how she as a Muslim woman had experienced a lot of discrimination, especially within my her marriage. Whereas Muslim men can easily request a divorce, Muslim women face a tough time. She went through this painful process myself, to the point where it made her start to question her faith. Then support came from an unexpected angle: When visiting London, she met with Muslim men who supported her in her struggle by explaining how she could get a divorce. This was the first time in my life that she experienced support from men. She continued to share other examples of supportive religious men: a Bosnian Imam who had told her that women should not just follow what others preach, but should study the religious texts themselves, and Muslim men telling her that women religious leaders are needed to step in and bring the dimension of love and humanity back into religion. She shared how empowering these experiences had been for her, and how it had helped her to reconnect with her faith. 

Supportive men - another example

The wonderful documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell is going to gain even wider exposure now that Liberia's Leymah Gbowee has been recognized as one of three 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners. The women the film celebrates come together across religious lines, Muslim and Christian, to insist that the long-running civil war must end. In what I remember as the most dramatic section, when the men are inside a hotel in no particular hurry to make peace, one gentleman allies himself with the women and makes a crucial difference. I've seen it twice and I still don't know his name, but I remember him well. Do see that film if you haven't!

Men listen to other men

Yes, I know which scene you mean. And though from the perspective of a women's right activist it is sad to see that the word of a man often still has more weight, we can also use this strategically. We do need to include gender-sensitive men because for sustainable change we do need to include the other half, starting with the men who fight for the same course. But it is also reality that men do listen more to other men in patriarchal societies than they do to women. Working together side by side as allies with progressive men is therefore the only way to eventually overcome the gender discrimination, be it in religion, politics or other parts of society. 

Encouraging women

Being raised as a rather fundamentalist catholic, for me it was obvious that men were the priests and the leaders of the religion; they could tell what was sinful or not. In other aspects of life, I never felt that women had less to tell than men. This made that later in life, I started to question the supremacy of men in religion as well. Now I know that the word in the Bible: "God created man, man and woman He created them" has the deep truth of equality of men and women.  (in Dutch there is another word for man, which means both man and woman). And as Merle Gosewinkel states: "We do need to include gender-sensitive men because for sustainable change we do need to include the other half, starting with the men who fight for the same cause"

Before women can start with fighting for the cause of engendering religion, they have to become conscious of the real equality of man and woman in religion and they need the leadership skills to work for it. They often will get the reproach that they are bringing division in the community, contrary to peace.

Today, in the Netherlands we are working on a training program for female leadership in religion. How can religion as a force and source of inspiration contribute to leadership of women in peace processes - in order to implement UNSC Resolution 1325. It is most important that women get support in their leadership and that the influence of the different religions will be valued. 

The training will be about
- spirituality and faith (also from religious books) as an inspiration for women (power, leadership, strenght, involvement in peace and reconciliation processes

- spirituality and faith as inspiration for men (dignity as a man, nonviolence, cooperation, serving forms of honour and pride, value your body (no addiction to drugs, work or risks)

- lobby for the 'correct points of vue' of religious institutions regarding women, men and sustainable peace. 

We already organised a workshop where women shared how they found inspiration in their religion for their peace work. We will continue with an expert meeting (11-09-2011) where women from different faiths will design a rough concept for such trainings. And we will work on finding funds to indeed carry out the trainings in conflict regions. 

 

More examples and resources on engaging men as allies

For more examples (as well as challenges, ideas, resources) on engaging men as allies, take a look at another dialogue that we hosted with Jose on Joining Forces: Engaging men as allies in gender-sensitive peacebuilding.  It is a great resource!

Faith and Interfaith PB

Hi all, 

I wanted to share some thoughts on faith based and interfaith based peacebuilding. In the WPP Interfaith Consultation, the group struggled in terms of distinguishing between faith-based and interfaith peacebuilding. It quickly became clear that the context in which one was living influenced the interpretation that was given. For example, a participant from Bangladesh shared that, in her country, people are more open to interfaith peacebuilding work, which means people of different faiths working together for peace. Faith-based peace work is regarded there with suspicion, being seen as an attempt to “convert people to your faith”. Several participants stressed that when working in a multi-faith setting, you need to be very responsive to people’s sensitivities and fears. This includes the fear people have of " trying to be converted". 

I also wanted to share with you another video which is quite interesting, in terms of interfaith peacebuilding. It’s called “The Imam and the Pastor” and its about Interfaith based peacebuilding in Nigeria. In the 1990s, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa led opposing, armed militias, dedicated to defending their respective communities as violence broke out in Kaduna, northern Nigeria. In pitched battles, Pastor James lost his hand and Imam Ashafa’s spiritual mentor and two close relatives were killed. Now the two men are co-directors of the Muslim-Christian Interfaith Mediation Centre in their city, leading task-forces to resolve conflicts across Nigeria.

Find some more information here; http://www.fltfilms.org.uk/imam.html

Strategies and working for change

Thank you to all your comments, so enriching! I agree with those who've shared the strategy of working across the divide and building bridges. I agree that being conscious and sensitive makes women more empathetic that help bridge the gaps. If we are to work for peace in our communities, then we must be the first to live and practice.

Women in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (Kup Women for Peace) on both sides of the conflict, have reached out to each other and worked together to force their men to lay down their weapons because it was killing their young men, traumatising communities and children. Women in Bougainville stood between men on opposite sides baring their breasts to remind the young men in the conflict of their moral authority as mothers and to demand that they lay down their arms and stop the warring. When men are so concerned about ego, pride and 'macho' behaviour, women are more concerned about sustaining peace for their children and communities. There are many great examples and best practices across regions but the problem is the lack of documentation of good practices. Maybe we can start with our own local communities and then work across nations and regions. When we can all recognise, cleric leaders included, that religion is about upholding the dignity of human beings, we can then enjoy the uplifting empowerment of our belief systems. Sure, there are women's/feminist NGOs that look down on faith-based groups, but that is to be understood as they tend to assess the perspectives of faith-based women on how liberating for women they are. If faith-based women's peace groups continue to work from within the shackles of the patriarchal values of religion without liberating women, then there is a need to be educated to see the light. I tend to see the value of working both from within current religious/ faith-based structures, and creating alternative structures for transformative change. Those working from a feminist/rights-based and faith-based perspective are in a better position to contribute from both ends of the spectrum. I know they will need resources and lots of energy, but as said before, we must utilise all that we have to create change and make a difference.

 I've often been reminded by gender-sensitive males on the need to be inclusive. Men can listen to each other, so half of our struggle is done when men are engaged to take responsibility for their gender. There are examples of Men as Partners against Domestic/Sexual Violence, and these are young male graduates, who are also embraced by feminist organisations and trained on gender sensitivity so they can be effective partners in peace-building. In my experience of women's rights/gender training, I have on a few occassions taken Muslim colleagues with me to indigenous Christian villages, to share their life stories. The comparatives and commonalities leave lasting impressions, and friendships. I myself have benefited from a rich experience of mixed faiths, so there is a greater understanding of difference without being judgemental. In Fiji, some of the most progressive clerics are in the Anglican Church which also ordains women priests, and have been some of the best progressive church leaders that have worked with women on some of the fundamental social justice issues. An ordained female priest and a former Director of Women in government, is one of the women's  movements greatest ally as she uses great female role models in scriptures to empower women, such as Deborah, the Egyptian mid-wives who saved Moses at birth, etc.But getting these examples documented is one of the greatest challenges that I believe should be taken up.   

Ema Tagicakibau, Pacific Network for Peace & Disarmament, Auckland, NZ  

Suggestion

Growing religious fundamentalism increases the power imbalance between women and men for instance curtailing women's rights and excluding from education.  The United Nations in 1995 notes that "it is has been recognised all over the world that female empowerment and equality of both seses is an imperative precondition for social justice, sustainable development peace.  Region can influence a sustainable development and can be used to overcome the obstacles earlier observed.

My suggestion on how to apply these are 2 prongs:

1. Sustained engagement of the male leaders of religious bodies.

2. Raising the awareness of active women within the religions. 


 In this respect, it important that we begin to exert a positive inflence on the public discourse which encourages gender stereotypes and thus the origins of this system discrimination by mobilising the media and general public.


 Turn religious leaders into allies in analysing and informing about religious scriptures from from the aspect of women's rights.  We can also make use of religious networks as a structure for changing the attitude of women and men.  this can also encourage the general population to critically reflect on gender and stereotypes.



 


 

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