Day 2: Latin America & the Caribbean symposium

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Theme of the day: Potential, barriers and resources to achieve gender justice within faith communities

 

On the second day of our LAC Symposium, we opened with prayer and song from the ecumenical community of Iona, brought to us by representatives of the Church of Scotland, Fiona Buchanan and Elspeth Davies from the Episcopal Church of Scotland.

 

Learning from each other

 

During the first session of the day we looked at the direct experience of working on gender justice via different organisations and faiths to inspire us and learn from each other in a context marked by profound inequalities in LAC. Cristina Luis Francisca presented the work of MUDHA in the Dominican Republic. The organisation was established to support women of Haitian origin and of Haitian descent, who historically suffered high levels of exploitation and domestic abuse in the bateyes and lack of recognition and protection by the Dominican authorities. The organisational work focussed on issues such as access to health, education and capacity building, legal support and advocacy on a range of issues, including statelessness and migration.

 

Blanca Cortez, of CIEETS in Nicaragua, told us about the experience of theology from the perspective of women, particularly as many Nicaraguan churches are very conservative.  Some preaching focuses on women as source of sin, and the fall of man.  As a response, women created their own theology and discussion groups as well as specific training and curricula within universities. This has led women to question negative interpretations and to more inclusive preaching by pastors who have received specific training.

 

Father Alberto Franco and Johana Lopez from the Interchurch Commission of Peace and Justice told us about their work in building peace in Colombia, which, after the signing of the peace accords in 2016, will centre on issues of justice and transitional justice, establishing the truth, and finding solutions to the root causes of the conflict. Peace is not just the cessation of conflict, it must be built. Monica Velazquez of regional partner CREAS told us about the experience of ecumenical women for peace who have been working to accompany and empower women victims of violence.

 

From Haiti, Manbo Beatrice Daleus and Pastor Joseph Clement (MISSEH) explained multi faith work (Christians and Voodoo) working together to overcome differences and work together for social and gender justice and democracy  through the Religions for Peace initiative. The organisation trained 11,000 women on gender justice and now the project has been extended to include men. MISSEH issued an important gender justice declaration in March 2015.

 

Challenges & resources

 

The second session focused on learning from existing learnings and thought.  This included existing learnings such as LAC liberation theology, interreligious and ecumenical work, new masculinities, popular Bible reading by women collectives, and the Afro and Indigenous people spiritualities. The main barriers identified were neoconservative theology, the top-down hierarchy of some religious institutions, the andro-centric nature of institutions, lack of unity of civil society, lack of interest by some clergy,  and refusal to open to new ideas and different spiritualities.

 

After sharing the resources the LAC region can bring to the global movement, the participants  proposed to bring some additions to the values of the International Faith Leaders Movement for Gender Justice, to reflect the LAC reality and experiences. For example, love should be effective, rather than sacrificial, and the concept of dignity must be inclusive of different perceptions and world views – it cannot be imposed from the outside. The most important issue we discovered was the need to work interreligiously and inclusively: we need to seek out the common points, not our differences, always with respect.

 

Prayer to end

 

The day concluded with an Afro Latin American and Caribbean ceremony from  Voodoo (Haiti) and Candomble (Brazil) officiated by Manbo Beatrice and Iyalorixa Cristian d’Osun, who helped us  understand the commonality across religions and the centrality of faith and spirituality, whatever our differences.

 


 

 

Amy Smith, Christian Aid

Posted by: Side By Side | Thursday, November 5th, 2015
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