Bengaluru (Story By: Virginia Saldanha): Women from Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches met recently in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) to review the working of a movement formed 20 months ago.
The September 26-27 meeting also charted a path to make the Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM) relevant to the present time in society and the Church.
The gathering of sisterhood reflected on “Women as Agents of Change.” Dr. Kochurani Abraham, who facilitated the meet, stressed the importance of women exercising their agency which gives them the capacity to make a difference. Women exercising agency is an antidote to victimization, she pointed out. Exercising agency gives women the freedom to speak, act and produce the change they want to see, she added.
The participants drew up objectives and planned strategies to build Christian Women Leadership, celebrate our womanhood as Christians and Indians, and raise our voices for issues and concerns whenever women and men are denied their rights and dignity in society and in the Church.
They also resolved to stand with other struggling groups and peoples, network with women’s organizations in the country as they work toward establishing God’s reign of justice and peace.
The formation of a national body of Christian women in India was mooted at a national conference held at National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC), Bengaluru, in January 2014.
The conference was jointly organized by Streevani (women’s voice) of Pune, Indian Social Institute of Bangalore, Montfort Social Institute of Hyderabad and the Office of Women of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. The decision to form a national body for Christian women was spontaneous.
However, the presence of an ecumenical sister as a resource person, who voiced the need for a common body of Christian Women in India, helped consolidate the decision to birth of ICWM.
Participants at the concluding liturgy
The meeting addressed the “Paradigm Shifts after Vatican II and Its Impact on Women” and women and men present noted the theological and ecclesiological shifts that form a solid basis for equal discipleship and partnership of women and men in the Church’s life, governance and mission.
They noted that women feel deprived of this equality, Vatican Council II encouraged them as People of God to dream about a new way of being Christian women and men in the future – as mystical prophets, theological critics, political activists and religious who live a deinstitutionalized form of consecrated life.
They envisioned that the ICWM would become a body to facilitate networking, sharing information, having common programs to share knowledge and create awareness. For this, they decided to use information technology that provides various social platforms to facilitate communication and share information.
ICWM helps facilitate a sisterhood of solidarity across boundaries to change unjust beliefs, practices and structures that perpetuate patriarchy and contribute to the exploitation of women at various levels.
It hopes for a discipleship of equals as a gospel imperative, where women’s gifts and charisms are recognized and used in ministry.
The movement committed itself to become a voice and an advocacy group at the national level to speak out against violence, as well as for the protection of the rights and dignity of women in civil and ecclesial structures.
It partners with existing secular women’s organizations in the country for capacity-building of women’s social, cultural, political and ecclesial leadership; for gender justice, feminist theologizing, strategies for ecological restoration and social transformation and large scale campaigns of resistance against policies and power games that lead to the diminishment, humiliation and even death of women.
It supports justice issues of dalits, tribals and other subaltern, marginalized groups. It aims t