EWA VI. BANGALORE 14-17TH NOVEMBER 2013

36 participants from   10 countries attended the 6th EWA conference.

THURSDAY 14th November

OPENING LITURGY:   Using poetry and dolls made by Francois Bosteels, Francois and Kochurani Abraham led the opening liturgy, focusing on women’s experience of subjugation because of the misuse of power and how they can triumph over the abuse and sing their magnificat.

Called to dream of ways that power can be liberated and to express their understanding of power, each participant placed a lit candle around the doll of the ‘Dreamer’.

The prayer service ended with the recitation of the prayer Asatoma Sat Gamaye invoking the Spirit to lead us from untruth to truth, from darkness to light and from death to life.

WELCOME

Shalini the coordinator of EWA VI welcomed the participants on behalf of the coordinating team and highlighted the theme: Liberating Power – Asian Feminist Theological Perspectives.  She stated that women are kept out of structures within and outside the Church and called on participants to reject ‘power over’ relationships. To liberate power from it’s negative interpretations, she emphasiszd the need to develop attitudes of ‘power within’, ‘power to’ and ‘power with’.

INTRODUCTIONS

Iswanti facilitated the session of ‘getting to know each other.’ Each participant was asked to draw/paint a tree representing herself and then to share her painting with those in her group.

FRIDAY 15th NOVEMBER

Opening Liturgy – The opening liturgy focused on women from the Old and New testaments and how they are models and sources of inspiration for our lives. We also remembered inspirational women who had touched our lives.

 

Paper Presentations

Therese Thuy Nguyen: From Doing things right to doing the right thing – The significance of Ignatian discernment for decision making of women. 

Abstract: “From doing things right to doing the right thing” is the purpose of an authentic person. This requires that the individual undergo a transition from efficiency to effectiveness. This transition is realized only through a conscious act of self committing choice which does not come naturally but which a human person is able to achieve. From a Christian point of view, Bernard Lonergan (Method in Theology) considers this as a conversion in the fullest sense: affective, cognitive and religious. Chris Lowney (Heroic Leadership) articulates this in terms of an effective person as someone who is capable of discernment.  To reach this aim, feminist scholars, for instance, Sandra M. Schneiders, Anne Carr, Joann Wolski Conn, and Carol Gilligan notify challenges for women with regard to self-awareness and dominant cultures.

In the context of Vietnam, this purpose is a challenge for women religious to live out their obedience genuinely. In the context of the Lovers of the Holy Cross (LHC), a diocesan congregation with almost seven thousands members, the present study aims to answer questions such as: “How do the negative impacts of Confucian morals and the hierarchical structure affect the religious obedience in both congregational and local church levels; whether the religious are living God’s will or god’s will; In what regard does discernment enhance women religious’ obedience? The conclusion will connect to the main theme of the conference as Liberating Power in an ethical viewpoint; in personalist theological ethics the main focus on authentic growth is the fundamental option that man is thoroughly dependent on God (the origin), who calls the individual to respond with the whole orientation of her life towards God as the ultimate end. Thus, in God and for God, one receives power as God’s gift and responsibility for such power is one’s duty.

Dr.  Pauline Chakkalakal, dsp, Power of Paul’s Liberative Vision: A Feminist Reading of Galatians 3:28

Abstract: Paul’s letters have had tremendous impact on Christian thinkers and reformers down the centuries. Nevertheless, Paul of Tarsus continues to be a controversial figure in feminist circles (e.g., 1Cor 11:2-16; 1Cor 14:26-40). With the awakening of the ‘feminist’ consciousness, women have begun to challenge the dynamics of oppression in the name of God and religion.  Thanks to Asian and global women’s movements, they have played a vital role in enhancing the development of Asian feminist theologies and liberation hermeneutics.

A ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ should inform any reading of biblical texts and commentaries, and reconstruct them in terms of praxis for liberation of all. Making use of the tools of exegesis and the feminist liberation hermeneutics, the study highlights Paul’s egalitarian vision in Galatians 3:38. In the process we learn the art of listening to the silent and silenced voices within the text (Gal 3:26-28; Gen 1: 26-27).

Divided into two main parts, Part 1 examines the context, structure and exegesis of Gal 3:28, while Part 2 focuses on implications and challenges for today. Committed to the liberative and prophetic mission of Jesus of Nazareth (Lk 4: 16-19) and to expanding the egalitarian thrust of Paul, my study demands a critique of patriarchal ideology with its systemic exclusion of women from leadership and decision-making positions in the church. In other words, my feminist hermeneutical reading is a call to individual and structural transformation.

Notes on the Open Forum: Moderator – Sharon Bong

Self Awareness is the starting point for women to discern their goals and make decisions moving forward towards freedom. While we talk of self awareness, courage and growth, we must remember that self-awareness is a process of constant dialogue with ourselves and the situation.

Decision making is part of  a liberating power that women must achieve by themselves

The Body is a powerful carrier of wisdom, so it is important to listen to the body.

To argue against the concept that there is a need of more female directors because of their feminine nature, it was clarified that there is no strict delineation of masculine or feminine natures and we cannot ascribe one set of qualities to one sex. We need to speak of human qualities

Claiming our rightful place in the Church is the need of the hour. We cannot remain silent and be silenced in the Church. Don’t be afraid of change , but be afraid of standing still.

 

Keynote Address: Corinne Kumar 

Corine spoke of the need for contextualising and historicising the doing of theology. In the patriarchal paradigm the voices of women and the marginalised are suppressed. Thus we need to rediscover and listen to stories and testimonies of women.

Liberating power is the way to speak truth to powers and the powerless. New words are being generated in our time, words that are soaked in blood: collateral damage, military tribunals, pre-emptive strikes, etc… One can no longer remain an observer, spectator, researcher  or bystander. We must be witnesses who observe, and remember, and testifiy.

We must move away from eurocentric, objective, and linear research methodologies to wholistic ways, from quantitative to qualitative in order to recapture the hidden knowledge. Women cannot separate reason from contemplation. We need to find a way to weave together reason and compassion so we can experience deeper levels of consciousness and knowledge.  We need to move out of the straight line and walk into the forest which is full of surprises.

The knowledge and wisdom of our cultures and civilisations were squashed by the one dominant discourse. There is no one central mountain. We need to find ways to integrate the roots of traditions with modernity to graft an alternative way forward in all spheres of life. We need to question the centralising logic and dismantle the master’s tools.

People’s Tribunals, courts of women are concrete new ways of speaking truth to power

 

Paper Presentation:

Angela Shwe Mya and Annie Edwards: Catholic Women in Myanmar Leading the transforming power of Change

The presentation began with an overview of Myanmar, it’s population, geography, and changing times and situations then continued to describe the activities of MEWA, Myanmar Ecclesia of Women in Asia. These activities include leadership training for women and theological and social formation courses. The paper then moves on to how women of Myanmar understand God, the power of leadership, a reflection on powerful and powerless/vulnerable (God/Women), and oppressive and liberating images of God. The presentation ended with biblical references to women leading the change which is personal, communal, spiritual, and according to  nature and in its time..

Open Forum: Moderator – Margaret Gonzalves

In our empowerment work for women we need to be wary of whether it is really empowering, whether it is Church supporting or Church challenging.

 

Paper Presentations:

Kochurani Abraham – Freeing Power for Powering Freedom

Abstract: In the Indian tradition, Nari (woman) is meant to be a synonym of Shakthi (power). Yet,  a great  majority of  women remain blissfully ignorant of  the  powers that  are integral to  their personhood; This  could be because they  are either  conditioned to  think of themselves as  lesser´ beings  or  because they are denied  spaces and possibilities  that facilitate the realization of their powers.  Cast in the moulds marked by hierarchical and dualistic thinking patterns characteristic of patriarchy, women often experience fragmentation of their sense of being persons.  In this context, the unacknowledged powers of women need to be named and claimed in the process of becoming free. This presentation attempts to engage in this dynamics of freeing power for powering freedom through breath and bodily movements.

 

Virginia Saldanha – Feminist Power  – Living the Gospel Outside Patriarchal Structures.

 Abstract: “It shall not be so among you, but whoever would be great among you must be your servant”  Matt 20:26

Everyone has power depending on their position in a family, community and society according to the culture that governs them.  Power is also gained through knowledge, education, wealth, politics, etc.  We can use this power to help people grow or to crush them.  Jesus taught us to use power for service and consequent growth.

Love as a power for growth.  Women are conditioned to use their power to love, nurture, and serve.  Men who in the order of patriarchial society are conditioned to acquire dominating power, are socialized in aggression and acquition of all that gives them power to dominate, control and retain that power.  Today we see that power operating in nation states, religious institutions, sadly even in the Church which functions in the name of Jesus!

The power of God’s Spirit ever alive and acting in people, has motivated people across the world through several movements to re-establish the power that allows people to grow in equality, allows the flourishing of the earth, just distribution of resources, and the overthrowing of patriarchal structures that dominate and crush peoples.

Feminism is the thread that runs through these movements.  With examples the author shows how this is happening through peoples movements to save the earth, for marginalized peoples, and gender justice,

Open Forum

Our being and our doing has to go together. Need to become mindful of my own reactionsand responses to situations and people who oppose us. Need to work on our spirituality to ensure it is liberative and not obligatory or reduced to religious piety.

We need to introspect into our feminist power as we are quick at pointing out to others but what about among us. There are feminists who are caged within and need come out of the cage of patriarchy.

We must not assume that just because someone has finished theology or is working for women’s issues one is a feminist. Strategies of pratriarchy is to divide and rule. The weaker ones are divided against each other. The feminist vision is inclusive, egalitarian and wholistic.

An integration of spirituality and sexuality is needed to get out of internal cages.

EWA must push the boundaries of the Church to become more ecumenical, to open its doors to people of other faiths so that  we may be truly catholic.

SKYPE CONFERENCE

Paper Presenters

Sharon Bong: The Power of Transformation and Transforming Power A Malaysian Female-to-Male Transgender Person’s Narrative

Abstract: The paper foregrounds the narrative of a Malaysian female-to-male (FTM) transgender person. Through a qualitative analysis of Jin’s interview transcript using a grounded theory methodology, the first section of the paper foregrounds the power of transformation realised through Jin’s multiple coming outs: as a radical lesbian feminist, a female-to-male transgender person and bisexual. The second section of the paper discusses how Jin transforms power as he opens up spaces of belonging within institutions, e.g. the familial, educational, faith (as a Buddhist), intranational (or global) even virtual spaces (as a netizen of FTM transsexuals). Jin’s narrative of becoming makes visible the tenuous narrative of becoming of a nation-state that deploys a hegemonic discourse of gender and sexuality which privileges a stable, heterosexual subject engaged in sanctioned heterosexual relations – marriage and procreation – for the sake of nationbuilding. As such, the State’s rhetoric and practice of respecting differences that matter are markedly disparate. Jin, in living out his hyphenated identity as everyday practices, reclaims ‘inclusive citizenship’ and potentially calls to question the extent to which not only gender and sexual pluralism but also ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism are accorded legitimacy. In doing so, transforming power through the power of transformation not only realises but also radicalises the vision for a socially just, sustainable and inclusive Malaysia. Jin’s transgenderism resonates with the late Marcella Althaus-Reid’s decolonising of theology in The Queer God (2003) where Jin embodies the power to transform or ‘alter’ one’s body to ‘fit into’ an ‘unrepresentable’ form, that in doing so, disrupts the hegemony of heteronormativity. De-colonising theology that fends off such hegemonic discourses, endows us with transformative power to liberate theology, recognise the other, our trans-selves and reclaim that other as holy.

Kristine Meneses: Deafness and Deafhood in Mark 7.31-37: “Seeing/sign World” of Filipino d/Deaf and their Narratives of Dismemberment and Empowerment in this “Hearing/word World”

Abstract: The “hearing/word world” that is our world, has configured language and beliefs in a way that, disempowers the d/Deaf in our society and in the Church. Deafness has been viewed as a medical/pathological condition which has to be healed or repaired. Audism or the superiority “based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears” has rendered the Deaf as an inferior “Other.” Women’s experience of deafness is further differentiated by their class, ethnicity and gender.

This paper’s purpose is to reread Mark 7: 31-37 taking as starting point the experiences of Filipino d/Deaf, with particular attention to women. From a postcolonial perspective, our narrative and socio-rhetorical analysis will be attentive to signs of resistance or acquiescence to the “hearing/word world” both by the deaf and his friends as well as the deconstruction of binarism (deaf/hearing) in the text. This rereading will be dialogued with the Deaf’s attempts at self-definition and hopefully will help challenge our view of the d/Deaf, deafness, Deafhood, and Deaf Culture, toward an authentic solidarity with Deaf people, especially the women. Ephphatha!

Jeane Cana Peracullo: Doing Indecent Theology:  Ecclesia of Women in Asia on Power and Resistance

Abstract: Despite diverse cultural frameworks the Ecclesia of Women in Asia employ on issues surrounding body and sexuality in its 2nd book, Body and Sexuality: Theological-Pastoral Perspectives of Women in Asia (2007), the articles reflect a particular understanding of power which fits into what Gayatri Spivak deems as catachresis which she defines as “the act of ‘reversing, displacing, and seizing the apparatus of value-coding (Spivak 1990, 228).  Indecent theology as catachresis in the way that EWA triangulates gender, religion and postcoloniality challenge women’s exclusion in the mainstream (masculinist) theologies as well as expose the implicit ethnocentricism in Western feminist theologies.

In its “seizing” of theology derived from Asian women experiences, EWA subverts theology in both loud (forcefully through conferences and publications) and quiet ways (style, words, methods adhere to dominant discourse). Subversion is manifested in the rejection of an  idea that women ought not to be taken seriously when it comes to theologizing; subversion of a rigid liberative method in theologizing popular to third world theologians through the appeal to women’s experiences which destabilizes the almost hegemonic theology of the poor; and subversion through the deliberate re-claiming of the erotic in Asian female bodies, which for centuries have been described in colonial writings as exotic, dangerous, and mysterious; and finally subversion of feminist theology by proposing a different trajectory, a new way of seeing reality as reflected in the particularity of a woman’s experience that takes into account eros’ playful, transformative dimension which is missing in many works purportedly for women even by women.

EWA clears a space—in its very liminality, this space which is neither geographical nor physical, as site for radical resistance. In doing so, EWA forwards an understanding of power as space-clearing. This effort translates into a theologizing that is mindful of differences in, and among, women in the world.

Several questions were communicated from the different venues and answered by the different speakers

16th NOVEMBER 2013…

SPEAKER: Regina Wolfe – Church in China

Moderator: Judette

Judette shared about her work with the underground Church and a group of women called Virginity group.

Astrid

MODERATOR: Virginia Saldanha

SPEAKER: GENOVEVA DUMAY – Clerical Sexual Abuse in the Church

We need to research clergy sexual abuse for the greater good of others … we need to name the perpetrators and not fall prey to patriarchal strategies. We need to bring it into the public sphere and break the culture of silence.

Need to collect the stories of women and shame the perpetrators. We need to be conscious of how masculine patriarchal structures collude to keep the silence.

Need to unmask the continuity in the Church between perpetrators who are caught and those who aren’t.

A Challenge was raised to EWA to initiate research, discussion into clergy sexual abuse and search for alternative ways to address the issue of clergy sexual abuse.

SPEAKER: PHYLLIS –

Open Forum

The theme highlights that liberating power speaks of the need to liberate it from the negative competitive nuances it is associated with.

We need to exercise a kind of power which is nurturing, mutually empowering liberating and encouraging. We need to get into power structures to make them wholistic and also it is only by getting into them that we will be able to enter decision making structures.

When we mix up the idea that the perpetrator is also a victim of his circumstances and deserving of compassion we need to be careful how we name something as sin and something as rooted in patriarchy. We then participate in that crime if we contribute to the blearing of issues.

Patriarchy exists because it gets the support of women. Women are the guardians of patriarchy.

We need to find ways to empty ourselves of authorizing power and imbue liberating power. It is not possible to function without power. Rather than lessen the value of power we need to give power a new value – that is liberating power.

PANEL DISCUSSION:

Speaker: Evangeline – Experiencing Power within the Church structures

Insights

The denial and trivialising of patriarchy can be a point in one’s journey towards conscientisation.

When one imagines the possibility of a new world, it needs be be created within the world one is in.

We need to strive for gender just space despite obstacles and opposition faced.a

How do we deiscern whether the power we are wielding is life giving or death dealing – the only way to do that is in relation to the effect it has on others.

While we use the same vocabulary, language of power, we need to see how we can change the grammar.

Speaker: Madhu & Angel from Vimochana [an NGO addressing violence against women]

Began with a movie clip ‘The story of Cike’ which highlighted the culture resistance and solidarity among women from Ethiopia.

The importance of Listening with sensitivity and reclaiming the power that is denied was emphasised.

We need reinvest power with another imagination.

The different elements of power that we need to reclaim are:

  • Resilience at the individual level
  • Resistance at the collective level
  • Reformation at the structural level.

WE need to invade the spaces within homes, communities, societies and break the silence by making more voices heard and ,more faces visible.

There is a big chasm between the Law and reality .. The law is flawed, the legal system is flawed and judges can sometimes be flawed because of their human nature. Thus expecting the law to bring about change is a mirage. Law is a tool of Power and Authority.

Feminist and feminist groups are often accused of breaking the families. On the contrary their concern is to reconstitute and remake the family where women can become more assertive and men more feminine.

CELEBRATION OF EWA’S 10TH ANNIVERSARY.

SPEAKER – Agnes Brazal –  MODERATOR – Jean

EWA it hopes, its joys, its challenges

Agnes traced the history of Ewa with pictures to celebrate the 10th anniversary of EWA

Messages were read from John Prior and Evelyn Monteiro

The celebration ended with a cultural evening