Are religions above Fundamental Rights?

by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala

Mumbai: On November 29, more than 50 Muslim women and social activists entered the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali shrine which houses the tomb of the 14th century saint Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari.

The entry came after a ruling of the Supreme Court that questioned the ban imposed by the trustees of the dargah five years ago.

The event touches a sensitive spot – the situation of women in religion. While the second class status of women in society is openly acknowledged and addressed the discrimination against women in religions is usually excused and justified with claims of it being divinely ordained.

Thus in the case of the Haji Ali dargah the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission when initially approached by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) in 2013, refused to intervene on the ground that this was a religious matter. That is why the Supreme Court ruling is a victory not just for the BMMA who fought the case or Indian Muslim women, but for all women across the globe who are fighting the male appropriation of religion.

Christian women in India take steps to address clerical abuse cases

Participants of the National Consultation on "Impact of Religion and Culture on Women's Empowerment – An Indian Perspective" at Hyderabad, southern India. (Provided photo)After efforts to persuade the Catholic church in India to deal with sexual abuse of women by clergy, and upset over the church's slow progress, a group of Christian women, mostly Catholics, announced steps for addressing the issue on their own.

"We should move outside the church to seek answers to abuse cases. We should treat this problem as a crime and take recourse to the law," said Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a lay woman theologian.

Gajiwala, who heads the women's collective Satyashodak (meaning "seekers of truth"), made these remarks at a recent national seminar that studied the impact of religion and culture on the empowerment of women from an Indian perspective.

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“Impact of Religion and Culture on Women’s Empowerment - An Indian Perspective”

Statement from the National Consultation at Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad,

23rd – 26th September, 2016.

Pack nothing. 
We bring only our determination to serve and our willingness to be free
. We will not hesitate to leave our old ways behind: we fear, silence and submission.
Only surrender is to the need of the time: to do justice and walk humbly with God.
Though we set out in the dark.
We are confident that God will be present with us in fire and in the cloud to encourage us.
Alla Renee Bozarth)

Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, Varghese TheckanathDown the ages men have been perceived to be the sole recipients and transmitters of divine messages. Women on the other hand, have been socialized by patriarchal religious structures and practices to passively accept religious teachings as interpreted by men. These andocentric and patriarchal interpretations have defined and shaped the social and cultural contexts of Indian women resulting in their disempowerment and second class status. Recognizing the influence of religion and culture on Indian women’s lives, Streevani took the initiative to organize a National Consultation on the theme “Impact of Religion and Culture on Women’s Empowerment – An Indian Perspective” from 23rd to 26th September, 2016 at Hyderabad.  The Montfort Social Institute hosted the meeting and were also co-organizers together with the Indian Christian Women’s Movement, The Indian Women Theologians Forum, and Satyashodak. 50 people, religious women and men, lay women and one diocesan priest were present.

Jesus & ourselves, compare! He emptied himself, we peacock!

by Dr James Kottoor

Murder most foul on the cross. It made Friday good for the world and is called “Good Friday”
Murder most foul on the cross. It made Friday good for the world and is called “Good Friday”

Jesus is supposed to be the fulcrum on which everyone who calls him/herself to be a Christian must swing around all throughout his/her life, twenty-four hours a day. He is the role model. He is the leader, we the followers; he is the master, we the servants whom he has raised to the status of his friends. He became a slave, we in contrast become “Peacocks!”

Holy week is the time when Christians around the globe focus their attention solely, so to say, on the person of Jesus on the cross, especially his passion and death. How do we compare ourselves to him?  “On bended knees!” could be the best pictorial description of that relationship of the generality of Christians towards Jesus, that is, the relationship  of a creature to its  creator for everything. When that relationship grows and matures, it may become specific and different for different people from the way they look upon him