Side by Side showcase exhibition at Scottish Parliament

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Side by Side Scotland showcased a new exhibition, Faith in Gender Justice, at the Scottish Parliament on International Women’s Day. In this guest post, the Rev. Marion Chatterley discusses the importance of the exhibition.


A new exhibition, created in collaboration with Christian Aid Scotland, highlights the impact that ordinary women have made in their communities – ordinary women who have found themselves involved in extraordinary areas of work and ministry. The exhibition pairs up eight Scottish women with women from other parts of the world whose work has impacted in a similar area. It serves as a reminder that women are making a difference in their communities day by day – whether that difference is acknowledged by those in power, or not.


On International Women’s Day (8th March) Kate Forbes MSP hosted an event featuring this exhibition at the Scottish Parliament, to celebrate the difference that women of faith make in our world.


Sister Isabel Smyth and Isabel Phiri are both educators, one in Scotland and the other in Malawi. There is an extraordinary resonance in their words:


‘Prophetic theology has turned me into an activist for gender justice’ – Sister Isabel Smyth

‘All religious traditions have at some time endorsed violence against women, so you have to learn first to live well within your own tradition before you can question another’s’ – Isabel Phiri


One of the women chosen for her leadership gifts is Dr Alison Elliot, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (and first woman to take up that position) who says: ‘nothing about us without us is for us’. She was able to make an impact on the attitudes of churches in Scotland during her Moderatorial year, simply by fulfilling her role and modelling a gender aware style of leadership. Her exhibition partner, Rev. Nosheen Khan is the first female principal of the Theological Seminary in Gujranwala, Pakistan. As a religious leader, she has also experienced many occasions when her gender has been an obstacle to her role within her own faith community. She was ordained in 2015 but is still not allowed to pastor her own church.


Women who are making a difference within their own countries were also represented. Lesley Orr and Rev. Elineide Ferreira work in Scotland and Brazil respectively. Both have dedicated their ministry to working with, and understanding the issues surrounding, women who have experienced domestic abuse. Their work reminds us that domestic abuse is rooted in the power imbalance between women and men, in the societal assumptions about the respective roles of women and men – and that faith communities, including clergy families, are as affected as other communities.


Professor Alison Phipps lives in Glasgow and found herself welcoming a young woman from Eritrea into her family home. Major Maria Konti-Galinou is a Salvation Army officer whose ministry amongst refugee women and children in Athens offers a shred of hope and dignity to people who live in fear and have lost everything. Both of these women are able to model a welcoming and holistic approach to ‘the other’. Both saw the humanity of the people they met and responded to that humanity, to the Christ whom they met within the stranger.


The evening in the Parliament gave an opportunity for women to speak about gender based challenges within their own faith communities, Kathy Galloway gave an inspiring input – reminding us in both words and music that each one of us can make a difference.


Time and again we were reminded that women find themselves striving not just to achieve but to achieve with excellence in order to make an impact. There have been significant changes within the structures of faith communities across our world, and yet women consistently find that they are dismissed, ignored and devalued. Men’s ideas are regularly given more weight than those suggested by women. Faith communities mirror the experiences of women in secular society and this event served as a bittersweet reminded that there is still some way to go.


Gender justice is an issue for both women and men. Men’s lives will be impacted in a positive way when our communities become more equal, more fair, more generous. As our understanding of gender develops and we begin to recognise that the traditional binary interpretations may be limiting, so we need even more urgently to address the issues emerging from gender injustice and to create a future where all of our young people, regardless of gender identity, have equal opportunities and command equal respect.


You can visit the exhibition ‘Faith in Gender Justice’ our website.



Posted by: Side by Side | Thursday, June 14th, 2018

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