Statement of the Indian Women Theologians Forumgg Meeting 2009
STATEMENT OF THE 9TH ANNUAL MEETING OF
THE INDIAN WOMEN THEOLOGIANS’ FORUM
23rd – 25th April, 2009
Nineteen Indian women theologians, consisting of women religious, members of secular institutes and lay women coming from six different states of the country gathered for the 9th annual meeting of the IWTF in Pune from 23rd to 25th April 2009.
We reflected on the theme “The Space Women have in the Church”.
Two papers, "What space can women claim in the Church for theologizing" from a biblical perspective, and “Feminist Ethics – Perspectives and Challenges”, helped in our reflection and discussion of the theme. Members also shared about their experiences in their field of work. Creative liturgies prepared by members helped deepen our reflection.
Inspired by four instances of strong biblical women (Siphra, Puah, Mariam, the mother of Moses and Pharoah’s daughter; Judith; the Cananite and Samaritan women) who created a space by courageous action and their critique in the light of faith, we reflected on the situation of women today in the Church. We strongly believe that the women in the Church with the light and power of their faith, can create alternative spaces for themselves that recognize their dignity and rights as women. This calls forth women to move out of their complacency, to take a stand collectively and consciously.
Reflecting on the perspectives of feminist ethics we were confronted with the whole area of cultural conditioning and double standards that contribute to women’s stereotyped subordinate status both in Church and society. This was seen clearly in the issues that were presented for our consideration.
Two important issues that gripped our attention were the case of the CMC sisters in Narakal, where the parish priest has tried to appropriate the school from the sisters and the issue of sexual abuse in the Church.
Discussing the case of the Narakal sisters we observed how the power of the hierarchal and patriarchal Church was used to put the parishioners against the school community of sisters and how the Mother General and the Provincial were made to capitulate and go against their own sisters. The case brings out very powerfully how vulnerable and powerless women are, especially the women religious in the hierarchical church.
We know for certain that there are several cases of sexual abuse of sisters that pass in silence because of cultural conditioning . The roots of wrong attitudes to sex go back to suppressed sexuality and family upbringing. Sexuality is still a taboo in religious formation. We regret that the Church does not want to face these issues to solve the problem.
We feel the need to work collectively to deal with these serious issues affecting women’s space in the Church through consciousness raising and standing with the victims for justice.
We invite all women and men of good will to join hands in supporting the cause for justice to women in the Church as well as for creation of “spaces” that recognize women’s autonomy and dignity as equal members in the Church.
25th April 2009