Side by Side launch new chapter in Malawi

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“Gender justice is not a matter of sympathy but justice”

 

We are delighted to announce that our movement is growing. On 18th and 19th April 2018, over 70 faith leaders and participants from across ecumenical divide, international NGOs, government, and other key stakeholders gathered to launch our new Malawian Side by Side chapter. Malawian Minister for Gender Dr Jean Kalilani joined us to formally launch our movement in Malawi and emphasised the important role of faith leaders in shaping our society.We are grateful to the organisers: Malawi Council of Churches, Episcopal Conference of Malawi and Evangelical Churches in Malawi, with support from Christian Aid, who organised two days of discussion, fellowship and action planning.

 

Fr Dr Henry Chinkanda of Episcopal Conference in Malawi (ECM) opened the event with a powerful theological reflection. In his exposition, he affirmed using scripture that God created men and women as equals:

 

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female, He created them” (Gen.1:27)

“For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal.3:26 – 28)

 

Fr Dr Henry Chinkanda emphasised that the human body shares in the dignity of God regardless of gender. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God. If you are interested in reading more of Fr Dr Henry Chinkanda’s contributions, we have included below his discussion where the sin of injustice against women come from?

 

 

After the opening reflection, Pansi Katenga, Christian Aid Malawi Country Manager, expressed appreciation for the overwhelming support, willingness and readiness of faith leaders to work Side by Side for gender justice. Pansi Katenga emphasised the need for collective action to uphold human dignity and tackle gender injustices in Malawi.

 

We were also joined by the Catholic Arch Bishop T. Ziyaye, who recognises that as part of faith leader’s role to uphold dignity, the church needs to galvanise collective action to gender inequalities in our country and communities. He called on the church to support gender justice in Malawi in the following ways:

 

• Disseminate and implement gender policies put together by the church and government.
• Zero tolerance of all forms of Gender Based Violence.
• Include women in Church governance and decision-making structures.
• Identify harmful cultural practices through research and promote teachings that eradicate harmful traditional practices.
• Ensure girls are educated and establish hotlines to support girls in need.
• Advocate and support policies and campaigns that promote gender justice.
• Promote teachings on the role of the family by emphasising equal partnership between husband and wife.
• Actively encourage men to work side by side with women to promote gender justice.

 

As part of the programme, we listened to three survivors’ horrific, yet heart-touching, accounts of gender-based violence. The different accounts identified the church as a ‘perpetrator’ who had failed to protect them. The testimonies provoked a lot of emotions and stimulated a strong discussion on strategies to end these injustices. Strong statements reverberated in the room:

 

“Make no apology for supporting gender justice as this is the right course for the church.”

“Gender justice is not a matter of sympathy but justice.”

“We should have done this earlier than today, but better late than never.”

 

Jane Machira, from the Side by Side chapter in Kenya, shared the achievements and objectives of our faith movement for gender justice in Kenya. She encouraged participants to mobilise around the most pressing gender concerns in Malawi.

 

Rev Francis Makandawire identified many exciting opportunities to work for gender justice in Malawi. The three Christian mother bodies and the government in Malawi have established gender policies, this is a great opportunity for people of faith to come together to make a change happen.
Our Side by Side launch in Malawi concluded with a day of action planning, prayer and fellowship. We are grateful for energy, passion and knowledge that was contributed throughout our time in Malawi.

We look forward to working together to grow and strengthen our faith movement for gender justice.

 

For more information about the growing Side by Side movement in Malawi, please contact Pansi and Rachel (info[at]sidebysidegender.org).

 

 


Where has this sin of injustice against women come from?
Fr Dr Henry Chinkanda

 

Ordinarily we tend to think of sin in personal terms. The encyclical letter Solicitudo Rei Socialis by Pope John Paul II, draws our attention to another form of sin. Individual sin is direct but there is also an indirect sin committed by groups of people in the society. This is sin could be discrimination of women in economic, political and cultural spaces. Cultural practices that perpetuate superiority of men over women are cultural sins. Why should a boy-child leave all the household duties such as cleaning plates and washing of dishes to a girl-child in full view of the parents who decide to say nothing? Ai ndi ntchito akazi imeneyo! Why should a mistake of a woman be considered graver than the very same blunder when it is committed by a man? This is a cultural and structural sin

It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore. If we cannot separate the man and the woman from God’s work of creation as created equal, who are we to draw distinctions between man and woman based on human ideologies and culture?
The reflection encouraged Faith Leaders not to fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator by coming up with our images of a woman other than that who was created by the God Himself in his own image. We are creatures, and not omnipotent.

Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.” (laudato si` No. 285). We could learn from God Himself who pleased to have his only Son Jesus Christ incarnated in a woman – Virgin Mary and by so doing, recognizing the status of a woman to great heights unlike the structural sin of inferiorism as imposed on the woman by our cultures.


 

Posted by: Rachel Tavernor | Thursday, June 14th, 2018
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