Over the past century the position of women in most countries has greatly improved. But much needs to be done. Surveys by the UNESCO show that women are still seriously disadvantaged in more than half of the world. Even in more developed countries women still lack benefits routinely enjoyed by men. And in all this, established religions play a key role.
Of course, religions are different. Challenges faced by women in one religion do not exactly match those faced by women in another. Yet, the interesting fact is that support for women’s equality or opposition to it have much in common across religions. Discovering those roots helps us to see the deeper causes and to understand how liberation for women can be more effectively promoted in each religion. Our job is to establish those common elements and deeper causes.
To achieve our purpose, we run a project with a construction and a healing element.
The Project’s CONSTRUCTION ELEMENT: religious grounds for women’s equal rights
All religions offer grounds to respect women and support women’s role in family and society. Moreover, the basic equality of women often lies enshrined in the deepest beliefs and hallowed practices of a religion. Such basic tenets may have been obscured in the course of time. Highlighting such facts across religions will strengthen their significance and will hopefully advance the position of women in less enlightened families and communities.
The Project’s HEALING ELEMENT: prejudice against women
In actual fact, the opposition to women’s advancement in all religions stems often from deeply embedded cultural and social prejudices rather than from the tenets of the religions themselves. These prejudices have encrusted religious beliefs and practices in the course of time and are now, more often than not, considered part of sacred traditions. It is difficult for women to disentangle themselves from ancient ignorance and bias without seeming to harm the religions themselves.
Frequently the cure lies in disclosing the facts, whether these are anthropological, historical or biological facts, and presenting these facts to the religious leaders of our time. Liberation comes from overcoming ignorance and clearing away distorted traditions that present obstacles to genuine religion. This calls for academic appraisal as well as diplomatic and pastoral skills.
Our project embodies the following elements:
|An academic WIKI to explore the common grounds for women’s equality. We are gathering data on findings and references to published material.|
|A related academic WIKI to explore the cultural origins of prejudice against women across many religions. We hope to establish parallels in how prejudices affect women at various junctions of their lives.|
|A series of online academic discussions. They include discussing what role is played by religious texts, and whether ‘God’ is the cause of discrimination against women.|
|An online library of printed resources on the subject. We are in the process of building this up. Please, let us have your articles or chapters in electronic format.|
|An electronic newsletter for participants of our network. It contains communication through a forum and through mail.|
|A wider discussion circle on a Facebook Group. This is open to all and allows for participation by persons who are non-academic but concerned about the project.|
In our projects we work hand in hand with the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research to which we are associated as partners. That institute was founded by John Wijngaards, a Catholic theologian who pioneered a reform movement in the Roman Catholic community aiming at restoring to women their rightful place within the ordained ministries. While in India, Wijngaards initiated the Dharmavijayamu Campaign in which Hindus, Muslims and Christian worked side by side to bring about “the victory of justice” in rural villages. He founded the Jeevan Jyothi Institute in Hyderabad which provides theological studies to religious sisters. He wrote classic books such as Did Christ Rule Out Women Priests?, The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church and The Ordained Women Deacons of the the first Millennium. He founded Catherine of Siena Virtual College for the empowerment of women which, before it was taken over by Roehampton University, was administered by the Wijngaards Institute.
We are associated to the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, but remain a separate unit. Our legal carrier is a Charity established in the Netherlands as Stichting Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research (registered as No KvK 41056067).
Visit also our sister website: Equality for Women in the Catholic Church.