REIMAGINING WOMEN, MARRIAGE, AND FAMILY LIFE IN ASIA:
A 21ST CENTURY THEOLOGICAL CHALLENGE
“How, in the light of faith, do we consider the changing situation of families? How do we enable women to reflect on these situations and assist them to be pro-active? How do we provide men and women with pastoral guidance to meet the 21st century challenges of family life?” These were among the questions posed by EWA Coordinator, Sr. Evelyn Monteiro when she welcomed the 36 lay and religious women from Sri-Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, and the honorary members from the Netherlands and Germany.
Front: l-r Tran Y-lan (Vietnam), Ranu Biswas (India), Van Lizar Aung (Myanmar), Purobi Chiran (Bangladesh), Elizabeth (Myanmar) , Josephine (Myanmar), Dora Dorothy D' Rozario (Bangladesh). Second Row: l-r. Jeane Peracullo (Philippines), Kochurani Abraham (India), Jeya Mary (Myanmar), Angela Wong (Hongkong), Teresa Le Thi Kim Thu (Vietnam) Almas Emmanuel (Pakistan), Sharon Bong (Malaysia), Julia Ong (Singapore). Third Row: l-r: Lieve Troch (Netherlands), Bernadeen Silva (Sri-Lanka), Nonie Gutzler (Taiwan), Virginia Saldanha (India), Evelyn Monteiro (India). Last Row: l-r: Agnes Brazal (Philippines), Gratia Song (Korea), Devika ? (Sri-lanka), Andrea Si (Philippines), Ann Mary Clement (Pakistan), Astrid Lobo Gajiwala (India), Marini de Livera (Sri-Lanka), Eva Guanzon (Philippines), Metti A. (India), Annette Meuthrath (Germany), Pushpa Joseph (India), Canice Fernando (Sri-Lanka), Claudia Stecker (Philippines). Not in picture: Kristine Meneses (Philippines), Bui Thi Nhu Kha (Mai Thanh) and Tranh Y-lan (Vietnam), Kamalam Joel (Sri-Lanka).
Asians value marriage as sacred and children are cherished as treasures and gifts of God. But increasing in Asia are family situations different from what Asians consider "traditional" and "ideal." Inter-cultural and inter-faith families abound, as do families with single parents, separated parents, parents working abroad, and same sex parents. Violence and discrimination against women continues, requiring women to be pro-active. As EWA's vision is to encourage and assist women in Asia to engage in theologizing that is inculturated and contextualized in Asian realities, Monteiro expressed EWA's hope that the conference would make some contribution to meet this end.(full text)
Shadow Lives/Public Faces: Woman, Marriage, and Family Life
in Taiwan. Antoinette Gutzler, M. M., Associate Professor of Theology in Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan.spoke animatedly on the need to recognize how our bodies, selves and familial roles are circumscribed by the symbols that we use to express ourselves. Gutzler explained how the character for man shows his strength as a farmer, while the ideogram of a woman is bowing with her arms crossed in a subservient pose. This ideogram appears in words like slave, jealousy, anger, and adultery, adding further negative associations to the concept "woman." We need to constantly ask ourselves, "Who benefits from the text?" and "Who suffers from the telling of the story?" (more)
Building alternative families as an extension of the evolutionary framework of being and doing family impacted by transnational migration, single women families and same-sex coupledom, was presented by Angela Wong Wai Ching, a Protestant pastor with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Angela contrasted the traditional definition of family as nuclear, monogamous, and heterosexual, with current realities that are often considered deviations or deformities. While various groups defend the traditional concept, this concept preserves the hierarchy of men and women and the public/private dichotomy which limits women to the nurturing role. (more)
. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala
, founder member of Satyashodhak (Mumbai-based Christian feminist group), celebrated differences within her marriage with a Hindu. She emphasized its sacramental nature, the spirit of dialogue and the responsibility of the church to nourish inter-faith marriages and families. After 18 years, she still remembers the pain of exclusion. The Church needs to provide space for interfaith families especially in Asia where Catholics are a very small minority. It is within interfaith marriages that we have genuine interreligious dialogue. While membership in the Catholic Church can become oppressive, Astrid said that she belongs to the Church on her own terms. (more)
Other Paper Presentations.
There were smaller workshop groups in which papers were presented. The nexus of feminist theorizing and theologizing was presented in Kochurani Abraham’s application of post-feminist theory. Kochurani suggested the move from ‘victim feminism’ to ‘power feminism’ as a framework for re-visioning marriages and families. Jeane Peracullo proposed a feminist reclaiming of the mother’s womb as an alternative to the pro-life versus pro-choice moral debate. Other writers suggested theological responses to the impact of HIV/ AIDS, migration, and other issues that affect families in Asia. Editors for preparing the manuscript of the book of EWA III are Sharon Bong of Malaysia and Dr. Sr. Pushpa Joseph of India. The EWA III book will be released at the EWA IV Conference. (more on titles and authors of EWA 3 papers)
Doing Feminist Theology
. ‘Is there an Asian way of doing feminist theology?’ As a synthesis of the deliberations, Lieve Troch, professor of systematic theology in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, facilitated a workshop in which she led participants to ask: "who owns the definition of theology?’ ‘What does it mean to be a theologian’ as an outsider/ insider towards the formation of church or ‘ekklesia’.There is no value free space, no value free language, therefore, we need to be careful about our definitions, she advised. The problem is when we think we think the same but in actuality, we do not. (more)
Launch of EWA 2 Collection
A main event of the conference was the launch of, Body and Sexuality: Theological-Pastoral Perspectives of Women in Asia (2007). The selection of papers presented at the previous biennial conference was co-edited by Agnes M Brazal and Andrea Lizares Si and published by Ateneo De Manila University Press. ‘The book will stir and agitate, as well as give the readers hope’, says Kwok Pui-Lan, a key feminist theologian with the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in her review. (Kwok Pui-lan's review
, other reviews and more on book launching
Leading Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu feminists from Colombo spoke on their faiths and the situation of women in their religions. The open forum that followed gave participants an opportunity to dialogue with them on the topic of ‘Family’. (more)
Dialogue with Pieris and Balasuriya.
An afternoon visit to distinguished theologian, Aloysius Pieris was a learning and refreshing experience, as was the dialogue with noted theologian Tissa Balasuriya. (more on Pieris
, more on Balasuriya
by Fr. Clement, January 23 Morning Prayer
(by Kochurani Abraham and Southasians), Closing Liturgy
by the Vietnamese participants.
On the realization of the conference aims, a participant adds, ‘We were able to come together as women from different Asian countries—no small feat! I do not think we ‘re-imagined’ women, marriage and family life in Asia (adequately) because we realized there is so much more to do, to reflect upon. That realization is a true achievement—perhaps not one originally envisioned but one that is invaluable’. (more)
Tribute to Bernadeen Silva
. Bernadeen Silva, Host Country Coordinator for EWA 3, passed away less than 10 days after the end of the conference. This page is EWA's tribute to her.
The Kelaniya Temple
About six miles from Colombo, the Kelani Vihara derived its sanctity in the Buddhist era 2531, with the third visit of the Buddha to this country. In 1767 the Dutch permitted King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha's to develop Kelaniya Vihara. The existing paintings and sculptures are recent possessions, belonging to the 18th century and early 20th century.
Dialogue with Aloysius Pieris
These photos are of the dialogue as well as of sculpture interpretations of Christian and Buddhist themes by Buddhist Masters.
Conference Proceedings (opening, booklaunch, proceedings, workshops)
Liturgies and Cultural Night
Post Conference in Sri-lanka
Pilgrimage to Sri-Pada
There are places and places to see in Sri Lanka but just about every place in Asia offers ruins, colonial cities, temples, and natural wonders. This puts a pilgrimage to Sri Pada, AKA Adam's Peak, in a class in itself. A huge footprint at the top of the mountain is said to be Adam's (say the Muslims), Buddha's (say the Buddhists), Siva's (say the Hindus), and St. Thomas the Apostle's (say the Christians). 300,000 or so climb from December to May; translates to 50,000 pilgrims a month, with the bigger number climbing during weekends and holidays. The pilgrimage guarantees in one experience, an immersion in the life, the culture, the spirituality, and the natural beauty of Sri-Lanka as well as a discovery of the person's inner landscape. More