World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Asia-Pacific Women's Hearing on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology

Statement from the Asia-Pacific Women's Hearing on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology in Chiang Mai, Thailand, 02-03 November 2009.

03 November 2009


The Women’s Loy Pai Statement

Preamble: Loy Pai

As women of faith from Asia and the Pacific, accompanied by sisters from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Europe, we have gathered in Chiang Mai, Thailand between 02-03 November 2009 to reflect on the devastation of the planet and the lives of those most vulnerable in our world. We have come to hear each other’s stories and commit to actions to overcome poverty, redistribute and re-define wealth and defend ecology.

Inspired by the Buddhist Loy Kaphrong (‘Floating’) Festival, an occasion for giving thanks to the River Goddess, we say: loy pai. In Thai, loy means ‘float’ and pai means ‘go’. At the festival, small flower ‘boats’ with lighted candles in the centre are floated on the river, symbolizing the people’s relationship with the water.

From the stories we shared in Chiang Mai, we see the journey towards justice and sustainability in Asia and the Pacific as an ecumenical boat embraced and pushed forward by the currents of the Living Mother Water.

Women’s Lament (after Lamentations 5)

Before the light of day we women rise
to serve our families and communities;
we trudge to fields, factories, workshops
to toil like animals treading hay.

In the fields and streets we are raped
in villages and towns, our daughters are abused.
Baby girls, abandoned, killed, aborted in the womb.

Too many of us denied education,
learning only to care for the home,
fetching water and fuel under the hot sun,
paying for the water of life.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

Before the light of day we women rise
to see our rivers and streams polluted, dammed and flooded
our oceans filled with toxic waste,
fish dying,
waters rising;

to see our lands raped and exploited,
our forests destroyed

to see the creatures of the Earth and skies
disappearing from our planet.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

Before the light of day we women rise
in militarized zones,
landmines taking the limbs of our children,
destroying our fields;

in places of conflict
people displaced, villages destroyed.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

Before the light of day we women rise
to a globalized world
to a world driven by neo-liberal economics,
policies to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Palm oil plantations, agri-businesses,
driving farmers from their homes.

Tourism bringing casinos to our towns,
golf courses to our countrysides,
driving our families from the lands of our ancestors.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

Before the light of day we women rise
to see our children in the cities, 
struggling to find work,
tossed about like chaff with every wind of change;

as forced migrants in strange lands,
working jobs dirty, dangerous and difficult,
no rights, no protections from abuse and exploitation.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

Before the light of day we women rise
to see our sisters trafficked for sex,
commodities to be used, abused and discarded.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

Before the light of day we women rise,
in the shadow of cultures, traditions, religious teachings:
shouting at us,
“You are inferior! You are less than men!”

taught to be good daughters, good sisters, good wives,
silent and submissive,
battered by husbands for speaking our minds.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

Before the light of day we women rise
to see Mother Earth dominated by humanity,
domination legitimized by our cultures, traditions, religions;

Mother Earth
crushed and damaged,
strangled and destroyed.

Before the light of day we women rise.

Remember, O God, what is happening to us.

A Litany of Hope

In spite of miserable sufferings and violent oppressions,
we women never give up hope.

And the signs of our hope
sparkle and enlighten the darkness,
here and there, around the world.

Signs of hope:
Women farmers
sowing indigenous seeds and using green manure to nourish Mother Earth;

building compost toilets and biogas plants
to sanitize and light their homes and
to cook their food.

Women in the islands of the Pacific, in the low-lying places of Asia,
adapting to climate change,
calling for action from those who owe the debt.

Signs of hope:
Counselling and support for those left behind 
– the families of migrant workers – 
helping those families stay together in their homes and on their land.

Centres serving migrant women workers:
Namyangju Women's Centre for Migrant Workers in South Korea
and the Mission for Filipino Migrant Workers in Hong Kong.

Signs of hope:
The Church of Christ in Thailand
supporting prostitutes to leave their trade,
girls and women helped towards a better future
out of violence and prostitution.

Signs of hope:
The Australian shopkeepers of Bundanoon
banning the sale of bottled water,
saving our streams, earth and air;

A Chinese woman pastor in Exi leading her community,
together building their small church,
irrigating their lands
and building village roads.

Signs of hope:
The Asian Women’s Religious Leaders Summit:
women rising to lead in places where women are expected to follow,
building peace based on justice;

Women all over, learning and sharing from each other
raising awareness, building capacity, training and educating
empowering women and enriching communities.

Signs of hope:
Hands outstretched to neighbours near and far
women working in solidarity 
for justice in factories,
for rights upheld:
marching, organizing, calling out.

A Chinese saying tells us that woman is water:
water is lively and pure, joyful and clean,
water is gentle but persistent, soft but strong.

Yes, that is woman.

We are women who are
faithful, which makes us hopeful,
hopeful, which makes us strong.

We can do all things through God who strengthens us.

Statement of Commitment

As women from the Asia-Pacific region, in the light of our lament and born of our hope, we call on the member churches of the World Council of Churches, Christian Conference of Asia, the Pacific Conference of Churches and worldwide ecumenical movement to:

  • resist and reject economic structures and paradigms founded on the exploitation of women’s bodies and Mother Earth;

  • defend all life; and

  • weave and nurture eco-just and inclusive economies based on the sustenance of all life.

As women from the Asia-Pacific region, we recognize only too well that culture, customs and religion often suppress and justify violence against women. We believe that it is critical that churches renew a commitment to a transformative Christian formation that upholds the dignity of all women as people made in God’s image, loved by God, through such strategies as:

  • re-reading the Bible using gender, economic and ecological justice lenses; and

  • educating congregations, church groups and seminary students on the intersections between gender, economic and ecological justice.

As women from the Asia-Pacific region, we commit ourselves and call on our churches and the worldwide ecumenical movement to examine and transform Church life and mission with a view to:

  • analysing the fundamental links between patriarchy, poverty, wealth accumulation, ecological destruction and militarization so that we better understand our own lives and the influences that shape the politics and economics of our world;

  • ensuring and valuing women’s participation and contribution in church policy- and decision-making processes, especially in the work on economic and ecological justice;

  • learning from women’s wisdom and traditional knowledge in developing and practicing eco-just consumption and production within our churches and communities, particularly in the use of church land and other resources;

  • examining and, if necessary, re-shaping partnerships between churches in South and North and South and South to ensure that they are based on equity, respect, solidarity, generosity and compassion;

  • challenging and holding accountable international institutions, governments, corporations and financial institutions for policies that cause gender, economic and ecological injustice; and

  • accompanying and supporting women’s and other grassroots movements in their struggles to build just and sustainable communities.

We women from the Asia-Pacific region have shared our stories and from the stories of oppression, struggle and hope, we have identified the following issues as priorities for the advocacy of the churches and the worldwide ecumenical movement:

  • recognition and protection of migrant workers’ rights, just livelihoods and decent work for women and men;

  • recognition and support of women’s central role in upholding food sovereignty, and women’s rights to land and water (including through campaigns promoting community-based organic farming and composting toilet systems); and

  • climate justice, recognition of climate debts and ensuring that women’s perspectives are brought to bear on negotiations on climate change and strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.