On behalf of the members of the Co-ordinating Team, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to each one of you to the third conference of Ecclesia of Women in Asia, affectionately referred to as EWA. The waiting for this event to become a reality has had its moments of joy and anxiety, which I guess is part of any birthing and growing process. Your response to the Call for Papers is indeed overwhelming and your enthusiasm to be part of the EWA family is encouraging. A special word of welcome to Dr Angela Wong Wai Ching, our guest speaker from Hongkong. We are also happy to have in our midst our good and faithful friend, Lieve Troch from the Netherlands.
For those participating in an EWA conference for the first time, I shall very briefly recount EWA’s story. Ecclesia of women in Asia was conceived at an Asian Theological Conference held in India in 2001. At this conference the handful of women who were present wondered: Are there not more women theologians in Asia? If there are, where are they? Well, here they are about 38 of you – women theologians from different Asian countries. At the 2002 and 2004 EWA Conferences in Bangkok and Indonesia respectively, we had an equally good representation of women doing theology in Asia. 2007 celebrates EWA’s fifth birth anniversary and we are grateful to our Sri Lankans friends for hosting the occasion.
Our name Ecclesia of Women in Asia expresses the desire of women to participate as fully responsible partners in the life and mission of the Church. With this vision in mind, we chose to reflect and discuss on the theme “Reimagining Women, Marriage and Family Life in Asia: A 21st Century Theological Challenge” at this conference.
In the past two decades, the processes of globalization as well as rapid cultural scientific and technological developments alongside economic and political changes have been impacting women in Asian marriage and families both in the urban as well as the remotest rural Asian set up. With regard to roles of women and men in the Asian family, and in the wider society, patriarchy remains sadly the determining factor.
It is in the background of world development that the late Pope John Paul II convoked the World Meeting of Families on four different occasions in order to underline the indispensable role of the Christian family in charting the destiny of humankind in the light of faith and the Gospel. Closer home, the Eighth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference that was held in Seoul, S. Korea in 2004 reflected on the Asian family for life in fullness.
The aspirations and dreams of the Asian family for life in fullness is one that never fades. Even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable misery and poverty, Asian families live this hope with vibrant joy and courage. Asians continue to value marriage as sacred and children are cherished as treasures and gifts of God.
However, the other side of the family scenario in Asia cannot be ignored. In the midst of swift, sweeping and even revolutionary changes in the world, almost common now in Asia are family situations that are certainly different from what Asians consider the ‘traditional’ and even ‘ideal’ family. Inter cultural and inter faith marriages and families abound. Also increasing in number are families with single parents, families with separated parents and families with same sex parents.
Moreover, the slow shift towards equality and partnership in husband-wife relationships has not prevented varied forms of discrimination and oppression against women at home and work. In a few Asian countries, tradition sadly justifies violence against wives and girl children.
How then, to consider in the light of faith this changing situation of families? How to enable women to reflect on these situations and assist them to be pro-active? How to provide men and women with pastoral guidance to meet the 21st century challenges of family life?
This conference on “Re-imagining Women, Marriage and Family Life in Asia” is an attempt to respond to these questions. Since EWA’s vision is to encourage and assist women in Asia to engage in theologizing that is inculturated and contextualized in Asian realities we hope this conference will make some contribution to meet this end. The various speakers, paper presenters and discussions will stimulate our reflection on this crucial concern of re-imagining Women, Marriage and Family Life in Asia in the 21st century. We hope each one of us as well as the publication of the papers of this conference will advance God’s reign of building homes and societies of love and reconciliation in Asia and the world at large.