What has faith got to do with women’s economic justice?


Photo: Contributed


Tertullian of Carthage, an early Church Father, asked rhetorically, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”1 Most often secularism and faith occupy two opposite spheres. However, for bearers of faith including Tertullian, lived faith and articulated theology are not unbridgeable gaps. History bears witness to faith bearers engaging in goods and services as well as interrupting and addressing systemic social ills. Individually and corporately, faith ideals inspire, guide, and contribute to the welfare of common goods.

Faith and Gendered Economy

It is imperative to retrieve and put to positive use what is often missing or misused in public discourse: faith and faith value. I have been part of the Faith and Feminism, a Civil Society Working Group to the United Nations which is comprised of faith-based non-profit organizations committed to bring together various faith-based organizations, build collaboration among various faith-based organizations, and advance gender empowerment and equity for women and girls who are often the most marginalized in the economic structures, in today’s fast changing world of work.

In the lived realities and contexts of women and girls, often extremist interpretations of religious texts threaten the rightful place of the vulnerable members in societies. There is a growing tendency to use religion for political gains by ‘politicizing’ religion. It is therefore imperative for faith-based groups to name, and address abuse and misuse of religious forces that incite violence against women and girls. It is time to put to use faith that works for the flourishing of human beings especially women and girls who bear the economic brunt in daily living. Faith in the service of economic and collective wellbeing of the most marginalized.

A collaborative written statement

Aligning with the vision of the United Nations on transforming our world through the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, the Faith and Feminism Working Group has come up with a statement for the forthcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women, in March 2017: Re-conceptualizing Women and Girls’ Economic Empowerment through a Spiritual Perspective. Writing and editing a statement, as a group, is no easy process. But members of this interfaith group made sure that each one’s voice is heard in this laborious task.

This written statement will be submitted to the United Nations this month with signatures from key faith-based organizations and denominations which hold special status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). World Association of Christian Communications is one among them to sign on to it. It has been my pleasure and privilege to working on this document representing the World Association for Christian Communication.

As a woman, I am aware that the face of illiteracy is female, the face of human trafficked victims is female, and the face of poverty is female. In the midst of feminization of key issues impacting the human family, the face of Christianity is also female. An ageless call of Christian mission is to cooperate with God in making this oikoumene an oikos, a family of women and men where justice and peace are the household norm.

Note: 1. De pracescriptione haereticorum 7.9.

Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D.  is a member of the World Association for Christian Communication-North America Region and Retired Director of Mission Theology, United Methodist Women.

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