The Parliament Blog

Female Leadership in Religion

From The Washington Post

Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, a courageous woman from the arid north of Kenya, devotes her life to building peace. She compares this work to an egg. “An egg is delicate and fragile. But if given the right conditions, it gives life.” Likewise, the potential for peace is fragile, and it needs careful nurturing if that potential is to be fulfilled.

Only a tiny number of those who sign peace agreements are women (one count puts the share at 2 percent). Likewise, photographs of interfaith gatherings constitute unmistakable evidence that religious leadership is one of the last places where the glass ceiling survives intact. But women, of course — as victims of war, citizens, and nurturers of values that are transmitted from generation to generation — are obviously deeply engaged in peace and religion. So where are they?

This was the question underlying a symposium at Georgetown University last week held by the United States Institute for Peace out of concern that both religion and women were too rarely at the center of its work. The symposium revealed an extraordinary array of activity that involves women, peace, and religion.

Stories of creativity, persistence and heroism tumbled out in a series of interviews and at the symposium. Dekha Ibrahim Abdi quoted the Koran to shame the groups fighting each other in her country into addressing their differences. Nuns in Uganda, Colombia and the Philippines stand as witnesses, hide those in danger, and demand action where rape is used as a weapon of war. Ashima Kaul returns again and again to Kashmir to document a past where different communities lived peacefully side by side. Bilkisu Yussuf demands action from Muslim and Christian leaders alike in the tense north of Nigeria and Amina Rasul-Bernardo helps Muslim women religious leaders (the Aleemat) in the Philippines to break out of traditional supporting roles into action to transform the community. Elana Rozenman hosts women from all Israeli communities at her house in “pajama parties” that offer a tiny glimpse of her vision of peaceful diversity.

Click here to read the entire article.

July 13th, 2010 at 6:00 am

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