The dream to hold the first EWA conference was born twelve months earlier in India, at an Asian theological conference to reflect on the Asian post Synodal document “Ecclesia in Asia.” At this conference, the 4 women present began to ask some soul-searching questions: Are there women theologians in Asia? Why are they not at our Catholic universities? If they do enter they are often considered as western because they deal with feminist issues. They are also expected to talk only about women, and when they talk about women they are not considered real theologians. Are they influential in curricula development? Many Asian women theologians do contextual theology: What would they say about the Asian reality?
In a historic attempt at making Asian Catholic women seen and heard, 55 women theologians from all over Asia gathered at the WE-Train International House, Bangkok, Thailand, for a five-day conference (24th-29th November 2002) entitled “Ecclesia of Women in Asia: Gathering the Voices of the Silenced”.
Dr. Evelyn Monteiro, S.C. from India gave the EWA Keynote Address, The 30 papers presented were on various themes: Women and Violence, Women and Spirituality, Women and Church Structures, Eco-feminism and Theological Method, Women and the Bible, and Women and World Religions. Dr. Lieve Troch, professor of systematic theology in Nijmegen, the Netherlands then looked behind the individual themes and issues to the broader context: of what it means to be “ecclesia”: the democratic assembly of free citizens. (See Conference Reflections for more on the talk)
The conference was sponsored by the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development CCFD, French acronym) in Paris, Institute of Missiology Missio in Aachen, Germany, and the Swiss Lenten Campaign Fund.
Since then, six more conferences have been held.
The second conference on the theme Body and Sexuality – Theological Pastoral Perspectives of Women in Asia was held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia with 48 women theologians or women doing theology in attendance.
The third EWA conference, Reimagining Women, Marriage, and Family Life in Asia, A 21st Century Theological Challenge was held in Colombo, Sri-Lanka on January 21 to 24, 2006.
Practicing Peace; Towards an Asian Feminist Theology of Liberation was the theme of the fourth conference held in Hua-Hin Thailand on August 26 to 29, 2009.
The fifth conference on the theme, Wired Asia: Towards an Asian Feminist Theology of Human Connectivity was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from November 6 to 9, 2011.
The sixth conference was held in Bangalore, India from November 14 to 18, 2013. It’s theme was Liberating Power: Asian Feminist Theological Perspectives and it was conducted in collaboration with the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church”
The seventh conference was held in Tagaytay City, Philippines from January 19 to 24, 2016 on the theme The 21st Century Woman Still Claiming Her Space: Asian Feminist Theological Perspectives.
The eighth conference will be held from January 18 to 21, 2018 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The theme of the conference is Foodscapes: Gastronomy, Theologies and Spiritualities, Catholic Asian Feminist Theological Orientation.