Faith institutions and communities play critical roles in a wide variety of crises. Women constitute a large percentage of these institutions and communities, and yet their leadership remain fundamentally overlooked and untapped. Women are at the forefront of the crises as primary caregivers, providing essential services following spiritual and faith-inspired values of love, solidarity and compassion.
Women of faith exemplify collaborative partnerships and intersectoral strategies of making good use of limited resources in promoting peace, security and upholding dignity with the most vulnerable members of the community. Equally important, women of faith are challenging their limited leadership roles at policy and decision making platforms from patriarchal and misogynistic interpretations of sacred texts, cultural beliefs and practices and documenting their findings.
Through intergenerational storytelling and interrogating their life experiences and contributions in families, local communities and faith institutions at different levels and through the ages, women of faith are unmasking memories of faith and cultural inflicted violence to nurture transformative leadership, peace building and healing of intergenerational trauma and creation. Women of faith are tackling root causes of female genital mutilation, “child marriage”, the escalating use of rape as a weapon of war and devastating domestic violence in the midst of humanitarian, racial, environmental and health crises.
In the 1990s, in solidarity with women in Argentina, Israel and Palestine, Rwanda, Bosnia and South Africa women leaders in World Council of Churches popularized and amplified Thursdays in Black, a resistance and resilience campaign against rape and violence. The campaign has become a simple but powerful global ecumenical advocacy tool, which is adopted by many churches, national councils and inter-religious partners, academic institutions and has become trendy among young people and students. This type of leadership, which amplifies women’s agency, and women of faith as protagonists of human dignity, peace, security and healers of creation pushes for new frontiers of advocacy and global leadership of young women and men together to bring lasting change that will help safeguard posterity.
Nonetheless, for too long, women of faith in leadership have been silenced and little known in mainstream media and in diplomacy at the high-level peace negotiations even in religious inflicted crises. Thanks to online facilities, social media, art, and music and bravely of young women who alongside young men creatively speak loud and clear exposing prevailing gender injustices and inequalities and together looking for solutions.
On 12th August 2021, during the International Youth Day, young people of faith gathered during a “hackathon” on climate emergency, singer and songwriter Suzanne Sangi, a member of the Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church, shared an original song with lyrics that spoke to the heart of climate justice activists: “We are all climate refugees in a world that learns to care. The world is still forgiving—it will restore, repair and care,” she sang. Are we listening?
Dr Agnes Abuom,
moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee