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Workshop on women and racism in Asia

19 September 2000

September 12 - 19, 2000

Once again, racism is focused as an issue in Asia. This time, particularly as experienced by women who come from the aboriginal, indigenous, tribal, racially and religiously marginalized groups. On September 12 - 19, 2000, the World Council of Churches and Christian Conference of Asia Women's Concerns jointly sponsored a workshop attended by fifteen women in the church who come from the minority/indigenous/ aboriginal/racially and religiously marginalized communities, who are involved in the struggle for overcoming discrimination and who are willing to make follow-up on actions to overcome racism. 

The theme was "Church Women's Role in Overcoming Racial/Ethnic/Minority/
Religious Discrimination in Asia." The workshop was hosted by the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, at the Hsinchu College in Hsinchu City. Taiwan, which has about 30 indigenous or aboriginal tribes who have lived there for over a thousand years, is an appropriate place for the meeting and for encounter with aboriginal communities both in the countryside and around the city.

This regional workshop aimed generally to provide an ecumenical space of encounter for women from specific ethnic/minority/racially discriminated communities to come together for sharing, study, worship, networking and action planning. Specifically the workshop aimed at helping the participants

- Gain a better understanding of the racial/ethnic and minority groups situation of women in Asia through country sharing;
- analyze their own experience of racism with global perspective and in the light of biblical-historical and theological understanding and vision;
- identify strategies for empowerment and action
- foster closer relationship/solidarity/sister bonding for networking and future follow-up of identified priorities.

Matsui Yayori, in her input on "The Practice and Impact of Racism on Women in Asia: An Analysis" stated that "minority women face not only racism but also sexism because minority men who are discriminated, oppressed and humiliated tend to turn their frustration and resentment to minority women. Minority women are also vulnerable to other forms of violence due to poverty and lack of education, such as trafficking, sexual slavery and forced marriage. They are targeted in forced sterilization and abortion which leads to ethnocide." This multiple discrimination against minority women manifested economically, politically, socially, and culturally is gravely caused and heightened by globalization of market economy and the current development model.

The workshop process led the women participants to write this statement that they would like to bring to the church's attention and action:

THE ASIAN WOMEN'S DECLARATION AGAINST RACISM

We are women from churches and indigenous ethnic minority communities in Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea, and Taiwan. We gathered at the Hsinchu Bible College in Hsinchu City, Taiwan from September 12-19, 2000 for a workshop on "Women and Racism in Asia". The workshop was organized by the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches.

We have come together in the spirit of solidarity and friendship to worship, study the Bible, and share our experiences, reflections and analysis of discrimination because of our race, ethnic background, gender, or economic status, and explore ways to combat racism and discrimination.

The worship and Bible studies on the theme enlightened and inspired us. We worked in a fully participatory and empowering way, enabling us to express ourselves creatively. We had the opportunity to be with aboriginal women in Taiwan and to worship in their churches.

We have listened with pain and outrage to stories of suffering, despair and struggle of aboriginal women such as the Ainu, Maori, Naga, Moro, and Tayal, Haka, Saiseat, Indigenous Australians, migrant workers and other church women from marginalized communities. We also remembered the other women who were not able to come, the Dalit, and the women from Myanmar and their oppression from the caste and political systems they are in.

From these stories we realized the similarities of women's oppression-her story is also my story, our experiences are one and the same:

marginalization of indigenous people, loss of cultural identity, loss of land and natural resources, violation of indigenous women's rights, commodification of culture and resources, violence against women, religious discrimination, and suppression of the right to self-determination.

We recognized from our common experiences that our sufferings stem from three root causes: patriarchy, colonisation and globalisation. We believe these to be contrary to God's will and must be condemned and eliminated.

We affirm the rights of all peoples to life, health, education, employment, prosperity, and security. We affirm the right of women and indigenous peoples to cultural expression, to participation in decision-making, to chart their own destiny, to liberation from the triple burden of race, class and gender, and to participate in the creation of a just, sustainable and peaceful society.

We commit ourselves to work together to break the barriers of religion, ethnicity, race, gender, class and all forms of discrimination that divide communities. We stand united and speak with one voice against all forms of discrimination and violence against women and minority groups in society; recover our cultural identities and enrich community life with our unique contributions; promote human rights, human dignity and human fellowship; and work for peace and reconciliation;

We commit ourselves to bring the issue of racism and the concerns of women and indigenous peoples to the attention of the churches and urge them to act in the light of the Gospel.

We commit to keep the memory of this gathering alive in our hearts through the work we will do in our own churches and communities, and through our continuing interaction and friendship. All these we offer in prayer to God, Source of the breath of life.

Participants: Marceil Ann Lawrence, Lea Yeattica-Paulson, Connie Bragas Regalado, Awala Ao, Narola Lungkumer, Ester Indahyani Yusuf, Hasegawa Kisei, Chung Sook Ja, Neelam Tariq, Amirah Ali Alidasan, Phebe Gamata Crismo, Tamasorn Bungon, Moeawa Callaghan, Chian Hua Chiu, Yu Lan Chen

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