KAIROS workshop at WCC Assembly inspires hope for gender justice in Christ’s love
KAIROS delivered an engaging workshop at the ongoing 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Lessons from women peacebuilders on transformation to more peaceful, just and sustainable relationships among all peoples and with Creation.
The workshop’s discussion focused on the gender marginalization in peacebuilding, climate change adaptation and mitigation, challenging patriarchy and building creative solutions for more just and sustainable transformation. The workshop’s panelists were KAIROS’ Women of Courage: Women Peace and Security program partners from South Sudan and Palestine. Their representatives were Jackcilia Salathiel, National Women’s Coordinator at the South Sudan Council of Churches and Zoughbi Zoughbi, Founder and Director of Wiam: Palestinian Conflict Transformation Centre.
Historically, women peace activists have used the common values that are present in many religions and faiths, such as love and the respect for human dignity, to build bridges. Nonetheless, religion and cultural contexts can also act as serious obstacles to women peacebuilders.
Jackcilia shared that in the context of South Sudan, discrimination of women and girls is rife in all spheres: in education, justice systems, access to property, recruitment to employment, political and decision-making positions, and within the church. Women and women’s voices are hardly present in higher hierarchies and decision-making systems of the church.
Women also face insecurity in many forms including sexual violence, domestic violence, and the insecurity associated with the climate crisis. Extremes in both drought and severe rainfall have greatly affected food security for many families, often leading to climate change-induced migration with women disproportionately affected.
Despite these challenges, the SSCC Nation Women’s Program is persistent in its efforts to reach as many women as possible in the many facets of peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts. The program has adapted empowerment methodologies that consider cultural, literacy and linguistic diversity of the women. Women are encouraged to participate more in decision-making process and are supported through human rights trainings, including on universal human rights instruments such as CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination) and UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
The Women’s Program has also been advocating within the churches to implement inclusive spaces that are more responsive to gender equality including supporting women’s leadership in the churches.
“It is futile to preach about gender discrimination and yet not practice non-discrimination in our churches. Peace in the community without peace in the church is not wholistic peace,” said Jackcilia.
In Palestine, Zoughbi Zoughbi, acknowledged some stark similarities between issues faced by women in South Sudan and Palestine, despite the very different contexts.
Despite the adoption of UNSCR1325, communities in Palestine have neither peace nor security. Zoughbi noted that the major obstacle for peacebuilding work in Palestine is the Israeli occupation. Women’s livelihoods and security are also disproportionately threatened by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, primarily because women are the caretakers of land. Lack of access to water and restrictions on Palestinians to dig their own wells, means that women must travel some distances to access water, where they face blockades and attacks by settlers along the way.
Palestinian women bear the weight of this compounded violence – the violence of occupation and the siege of the Gaza Strip, violence resulting from the climate crisis such as displacement from the land, as well as family violence – including the cultural practice of “honour killing.”
“Unfortunately, extreme ideas of patriarchal traditional and faith leaders are hindering our peace work in Palestine, who refer to it as ‘foreign and western.’ These leaders are completely opposed to the idea of women’s liberation and empowerment, gender justice and mainstreaming,” said Zoughbi. “On the other hand, various faith denominations are bound by restrictive doctrines and policies that present roadblocks to working ecumenically on diverse issues including gender justice.”
Wiam confronts these issues by challenging the status quo, basing the work on pluralism in Christianity and Islam, and ecumenism among all churches. Wiam is a member of the interfaith committees in Bethlehem, and works collaboratively with taskforces of lawyers, social workers, activists and other civil society actors.
Both partners agreed that women in their regions are very receptive of the work at their respective organizations, especially in the more rural areas despite their limited resources and some deep-seated cultural and faith-based societal gender roles.
In the spirit of the WCC Assembly’s theme on Christ’s love in reconciliation and unity, KAIROS partners and workshop participants agreed that encouraging each other not to be silent, standing in solidarity with women, providing them with resources and opportunities, as well as using ecumenical platforms to accompany and affirm their struggles are all forms of collective responsibility to alleviate the suffering of all people.
Perseverance, compassion and restorative justice interventions based on Christ’s love are true examples of how to respond to the most marginalized in the world, strengthening the journey and hope for the future.