What is the relationship between faith, peacebuilding and gender?

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What is the relationship between faith, peacebuilding and gender?

Use these questions to help kick off this discussion thread:

  • Does Religion play any role in the empowerment of women?  If so, what role does it play?
  • In what specific ways does religion help and advance the cause of women in Peace and Security (WPS)?
  • Which positive dimensions do religion and spirituality bring to women's lives?
  • How is religion manipulated to fuel conflict, war and violence?
  • What is faith-based peacebuilding?  Why is it important that gender perspective is applied to it?

Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to an existing comment!

Role of Religion in the empowerment of women and peace building

Yes religion do empower women, our problem is ignorance and following media propoganda about it. I am a Muslima and religion empowered me, it is giving me confident and paving the right way to interact with the society. Contarary to what we all witness on the media Islam is a woman friendly religion. In Islam women are equal to men no matter what is said in the media or seen in some Islamic countries. To prove this simple fact one can index the Holly Quaran to see that the words man and woman are equally mentioned, same number not more not less. Islam identified the different roles of gender, which is also scientifically proved. In terms of rights and obligations there is no difference between men and women in Islam. Women need to study the religion books carefully to come out with their own, right interpretations which are scientifically authenticated by verses from Quaran and from the saying of our Profit Mohamed. Amazingly most of these verses and sayings can be proved by science. One example of such issues which is recently, scientifically proved  is the so-called medical cercumsition of men, this is an obligation which is mentioned in Isalm and Judism senturies ago. There are still lots of fields mentioned by Islam which are not yet put into labrotaries for prove, women issues are one of these fields. I would like to urge our young, educated Muslim ladies to take these fields into consideration i.e. women affairs as topics for their research.

It is important to show the society the exact points of equality mentioned by the religion and the role of women in peace and security in terms of advisers, negotiators and peace loving humanbeings, there are lots of women out there who are excellent negotiators and lobbyiests. Wars are not created by women though women are the most to bear the consequencies of war. The role of women in peace building is a right which women think should be given by men, politicians and decision makers, but that is not going to happen so it is for the women to join forces and fight for it.

If women follow the religious teachings by doing the research by themselves and not to rely on the bias interpretations of men they will find the right way to follow in their pursue for taking their rights to participate pro-actively in peace building and in all aspects of decision makings.

Religion is manipulated by wrong interpretations, by mixing of tradition, culture and selfish interests of some men - decision makers, to serve their own purposes, Religion is indeed, used as cover up and for fueling conflict, war and violence.

Faith-based peacebuilding is peace from a religion perspective, the urge is for people to try taking religion as point of departure and reference for all possible conflicts. Rights and obligations are clearly demarkated and designated by regilions for men and women, only we ignore them and create our own rules and terms of references, people are mistakenly considering relgions as old fashion and outdated therefore invent their own innovative, modern rules, rules that build up on bias terms serving certain groups. Because these rules are communicated in a very clever ways that inter deep to our subconcious minds, we accept them as facts and the only reality of life.

As mentioned before, most of the women are peace loving humanbeings, women love peaceful living, co-existing and sustainability in their livelihood situations, these treits can only be secured within a peaceful society. These are the properties which make the involvement of women a pre-requiste for peacebuilding, women are half of the society, this is a huge untapped opportunity for peace building which are not yet utilized. It is a fact that the roles played by women witihin daily lives are reducing factors to their ability to use enought time in studying and waighing issues raised by the society and therefore rely on issues and solutions raised from the perspective of men, while men have all the time to put into whatever field they like to pursue.

Role of religion in peace-building

You make a very important point, Mekka.  So much depends on how religions are interpretted.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa or Pastor Martin Ssempa in Uganda take extremely divergent views on the rights of LGBTQI people, for instance, but both base their interpretations and beliefs on the same Bible and both identify as Christians.

So my question, and what I would really love to hear about from other participants based on their experiences, is this:  How have you seen religion being manipulated or abused to fuel war, communal tensions, or other forms of conflict, and how have rights-based actors challenged these abuses?

Role of religion in Peace-Building

Hi Saira,

I do agree with you, and yes many times religion is not interpreted in the right way, especially regarding women rights and duties.

To respond your question I would like to mention our work within Faith Matters. Faith Matters is a London based not-for-profit organisation, which works on reducing extremism and developing dialogue between faith communities. Many times in our experience we have assisted to faith groups spreading extremist views on different religions to justify hostilities towards other communities or faith groups. One of our project based in Pakistan has been based on the vision of promoting dialogue to counter those who try and cause divisions within or between faith communities. In order to meet our aim, we have developed a programme based to the provision of information to members of the public in Pakistan through SMS mobile text messages. This programme provides SMS messages based on Quranic messages and peotry, which can inspire people to undertake social action for the protection and for the development of Pakistan. The messages are a way of reaching out to people in Pakistan and also allows people who receive them to respond back to us and help us in supporting informational messages in the future. This project, which had a really positive feedback, ensures that the majority of people have voice against those who want to destabilise the country while ensuring religion to play a positive role in building peace and progress in the country.

Using mobile phones to engage/empower citizens in peacebuilding

JamilaFM wrote:

One of our project based in Pakistan has been based on the vision of promoting dialogue to counter those who try and cause divisions within or between faith communities. In order to meet our aim, we have developed a programme based to the provision of information to members of the public in Pakistan through SMS mobile text messages. This programme provides SMS messages based on Quranic messages and peotry, which can inspire people to undertake social action for the protection and for the development of Pakistan. The messages are a way of reaching out to people in Pakistan and also allows people who receive them to respond back to us and help us in supporting informational messages in the future. This project, which had a really positive feedback, ensures that the majority of people have voice against those who want to destabilise the country while ensuring religion to play a positive role in building peace and progress in the country.

Thank you for sharing information on this innovative project in Pakistan!  I would love to learn more about this.  Can you share an example of how this works?  What kinds of things do the SMS messages say?  Who receives the messages - how do people sign up to receive them?  What kind of social action are people inspired to undertake?  It's great that the project has received positive feedback and has given people a voice in the peace process there.  Can you share an example of the impact that the project has had? 

Have others used mobile phones to engage and empower citizens in faith-based peacebuilding?

Thanks Jamila and others!

Dear Jamila, Thanks for your

Dear Jamila,

Thanks for your response! 

I would be really interested to receive any reporting about the impacts and uptake of this SMS project in Pakistan, because I find the use of mobile technologies in activism a very important topic, but also because the issue of increasing communal violence and tensions and the decline in minority rights is something we are following at the Resisting and Challenging Religious Fundamentalisms initiative at AWID.

For example, Salman Taseer`s assassination (former Governor of Punjab; he was assassinated after taking a public stand against Pakistan`s `Blasphemy Laws`) is a story we have been following on our website and in our monthly e-bulletin (Facing Fundamentalisms) since one of the key findings of our research work has been that rising religious fundamentalisms are not only negative for women`s rights, but they are also harmful to democracy, pluralism, minority rights, LGBTQI rights, and a host of other facets of human rights, social justice and equality.

If any reports on the SMS project are available, please do share! And I`m really looking forward to a full reading of the Faith Matters sponsored paper on the Tanzimat period and law reforms under the Ottoman Empire. (I only just learned about it from an article that appeared in The Guardian recently.)


SMS Project

Dear Saira, 

Apologies for the late response. I am glad you are interested in our paper on the ottoman Empire.

Yes, a report is available and I would suggest you to contact me on my email jamila@faith-matters.co.uk so that I will be able to provide you with further and more specific information. You can also have a look at this website http://faith-matters.pk/projects/countering-extremism/the-protecting-pakistan-peghaam

Kristin, to answer your questions: people did not subscribe for the SMS. On the initial stage we sent messages to about 250,000 mobile phones subscribers through the main telecom operator working in Pakistan. The opening message stated:

In your Friday prayers, remember those including the innocent women, children and worshippers, who were murdered at Data Durbar.

Reply "NO MORE BOMBING" and speak out against terrorism. Forward this message to your friends and remember in your prayers (the victims).

Further and similar messages have been sent on a daily basis highlighting values of peace and fraternity stated in the Holy Qur'an. Recipients were asked to respond with a positive or blank text message if they agreed. Many people responded to these messages asking for explanation, factor that enabled dialogue and understanding of our message. In other cases, people responded claiming to be very happy about what they had read and to be willing to spread the message across their community. One example: One teacher responded to our text message stating that she was keen on delivering this message of peace to her pupils at school. 

The impact of messages on recepients have been assessed by field operatives present on the ground.

Approximately 750,000 SMS messages have been sent out and a response of0.58% has been received and with a ‘good’ SMS campaign receiving between0.4 - 0.8% of a response within Pakistan.

Approximately 750,000 SMS messages have been sent out and a response of 0.58% has been received and with a ‘good’ SMS campaign receiving between0.4 - 0.8% of a response within Pakistan.

Jamila Boughelaf

Role of religion in peace-building

Hello Saira,

Wonderful to follow this enriching exchange. Sometimes people who try to work on faithbased peace building and interreligious dialogue encounter difficulties with people of different beliefs because of the lack of knowledge of their own religious background and that of others. This is one of the reasons that politicians, military leaders and policymakers make use of that vacuum for their own strategies. It is of great importance that people of different religious communities come and work together for the simple reason to get to know each other and not remain strangers to one another, in order not to become hijacked or used as happened in the Moluccan civil war between Muslims and Christians.  

This civil war in our home country was a shock to every right-minded Moluccan. Why? What happened? What is going on?  ‘We were always living in peace with each other!’ But the conflict proves that we have to acknowledge we were living alongside each other but not with each other. When we don’t know each other, anybody can say anything about the other and you will believe it because it is ‘the other’. The conflict challenged us to get both communities connected again. 

Faith-based peace building only works, when we acknowledge and accept each other’s identity and from there we can work towards a common goal. As religion is often misused, it could also be used in a positive and constructive way. Our experience is that faithbased peacebuilding gives hope and comfort to the ‘other’ and empowers your own community.

An interesting component of the Moluccan faithbased peacebuilding is peacebuilding that goes beyond the boundries of Islam and Christianity, based on the religion of our ancestors. This does not mean returning to Jahiliya, but peacebuilding based on natural values, similar to the concept of fitrah of the Koran. Fitrah means that every human being is at the origin ‘good’ and ‘pure’ and has the inclination to the good and the pure.. During the recent ‘religious’ war, these traditions became tools for peace. Traditions which were handed down by generations for centuries and revitalised as a tool for peace and turned out to be a useful leg up for faithbased peacebuilding by both religious communities. When we say faithbased peacebuilding we should know what we want to say. Not self-righteous dogmatics, but understanding the heart of your belief leads to peace.   

We have to change our way of thinking and stop acting as representatives of a fossilized religion. Religion should not be rigid, but dynamic. Revelation is a dynamic inspirational process; a mercy to mankind to enable us to recognize and open up toward the good and just people of other religions and other cultures. Knowing the other means knowing yourselves.

Let's talk - how?

Farida, I like the sound of you, and I'd like to understand more about your work and discover if there is some way I can assist you. Do you know if there are any facilities for participants to contact each other after this gathering disperses?

Does anybody?


Fitra tool for peace

Hi Farida

Thanks so much for your contribution! Very interesting!

I would like to hear more on how the concept of Fitrah was used as a tool for peace; could you please share some practical examples in this regard? 


Fitrah tool for peace

Hello José

Fitrah means that every human being has all the qualities of "good" in itself. This is a concept from islamic point of view. Every newborn child is seen as such. "No child is born except with the fitrah: natural inclination towards good." For centuries Moluccan people have a life-principle: Alé rasa béta rasa. Meaning: what you feel, I feel the same". By holding up this principle, the effect is looking at the other as your fellow human being. It is all about empathy. This is exactly the core for peacebuilding. Because this principle came from the common ancestors it became totally accepted as a valuable obligation by both communities. By practicing this principle the effect is creating feelings of empathy towards your fellow human being. It is remembering people on what they already have inside them as being "good" by birth. In the reacent civil war local traditional leaders, role models brought this principle into practice in their speeches and activities. This became a great impulse towards the peace process, for it was recognized and accepted by everybody.

Pela-bond, traditional brotherhood bond. The life-principle is part of the "pela-bond", the so-called brotherhood bonds, that were used as a tool for peacebuilding. These are the 'sacred' brotherhood bonds between muslim villages and christian villages, which were established centuries ago by the ancestors. Through these sacred bonds these villages are obligated to protect each other in times of sorrow and conflict and celebrate in times of happiness. During the recent civil war the traditional leaders revitalised these bonds.

Makan Patita (reconciliation meals).  Makan Patita is also a Moluccan custom. A good example of reconciliation: a group of Christian inhabitants fled during the war. At a certain moment they like to come back but they don't know how. The first step for reconciliation was inviting women from both communities to prepare food. They came together at a neutral location, the beach, and sit and eat jointly from each other dishes. Of course it takes some time before they feel safe, but this is a positive first step.



Women reclaiming right of interpretation

Mekka n wrote:

Women need to study the religion books carefully to come out with their own, right interpretations which are scientifically authenticated by verses from Quaran and from the saying of our Profit Mohamed.  [..]  I would like to urge our young, educated Muslim ladies to take these fields into consideration i.e. women affairs as topics for their research. [..] If women follow the religious teachings by doing the research by themselves and not to rely on the bias interpretations of men they will find the right way to follow in their pursue for taking their rights to participate pro-actively in peace building and in all aspects of decision makings. 

Hi Mekka

Thanks for these points. I appreciate your emphasis on the personal experience of religion, and the interpretations of religious texts. Indeed, traditions and cultural experiences and rules are reflected in interpretations of religious texts. When reading your words, I was thinking of the work of Asma Barlas, who in her book "Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an" asks if the Qur’an is a patriarchal text. She asserts that various readings of the Qur’an should not be confused with the text itself, and that women can reclaim the right to interpret the Qur’an. She reasons that the Qur’anic understanding of monotheism does not allow males to share in God’s sovereignty or become intermediaries between women and God. As God is supremely just, God’s speech cannot teach injustice. She asserts that although people may have differing views of what injustice is, teachings that represent women as incompletely human, justify abuse, or deny women agency and dignity are clearly unjust and cannot be attributed to God. Finally, God cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms either as or like a male. 

Other scholars such as Amina Wadud and Leila Ahmad have written about this topic as well.

I would like to avoid focusing solely on Islam, for patriarchal interpretations of religious texts are not limited to this religion only. It can be observed in all religions, and there is a need for women for all religious denominations to reclaim the right of interpretation of scriptures.

Does anybody have practical examples of women reclaiming their right of interpretation of religious scriptures? I would be greatly interested in reading more about that.


Peace Jose


Women's Rights and Islam

Thank you all for you comments which I have found most interesting to read and I appreciate the opinions shared and questions raised. To answer your question Jose, an article published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) titled Women's Rights and Islam shows how despite popular belief, Shari ‘a law does in fact allow women to hold position high up in their societies, such as those of judges and that the arguments including women being too “emotional”, are contradictory to Shari ‘a law and a result of different interpretations of Islamic texts.

The author also adds that as there is different interpretation of Islamic texts across countries, there it is possible for Muslim countries to change but still follow Islam.

So if women are not discrimated against in the Bible Qur'an and other religious texts, why have interpretations looked  down upon women?

An Excellent Resource

Ladies, I've enjoyed following this discussion. A few years ago I read a marvelous book written for a general, not academic, audience. It's called Taking Back God, by Leora Tanenbaum. She limited her research to US women, but she talked with about 100 Muslim. Jewish, mainstream Christian, and evangelical Christian women who are all passionate about their faith and also passionate about their rights as women. I'm a Catholic who pays attention, but I learned things from it that I didn't know about women's struggles in my own patriarchal church. Here's one review: http://www.eewc.com/CFT/v32n4r2.htm

Ana, in answer to your question, patriarchy within religions & beyond is one piece of a longstanding domination system that ranked certain races, genders, classes, and nations above others for the convenience of those at the top of the tree, Rianne Eisler's work is helpful in understanding how it works and how to change it. I know you're part of the change!

Re-writing traditional stories from gender-perspective

Jose de Vries wrote:

Does anybody have practical examples of women reclaiming their right of interpretation of religious scriptures? I would be greatly interested in reading more about that.

Jose - New Tactics has documented an example of an NGO called Women & Memory Forum engaging Egyptian women in re-writing traditional storie to gain a gender-sensitive perspective:

The first Women’s Stories workshop titled “Re-Writing Arab Tales from a Gender Perspective” was put up in 1998. The workshop brought together a diverse group of Arab women, active in the spheres of literary criticism, creative writing, social and cultural history, and theater. The workshops are held on a monthly basis. During each gathering, the women analyzed an Arab folk story, such as one of the stories from 1001 Nights, and discussed its gender elements. Following the discussion, each participant would separately write an alternative version of the story. Then they would all re-convene to read to one another the resultant new, gender-sensitive and feminist stories.

In addition to publishing some of these stories, several were also used in public story-telling performances that included theatrical elements, such as directing, costumes, lighting, and accompanying live musical effects. By translating the stories into public performances, the stories were presented as newly created gender-sensitive cultural material to be disseminated to a wider audience.

This process was also shared with other groups. For example, the WMF held a story-writing training workshop from a gender-sensitive perspective for young Palestinian girls, and in the Sudan. The girls and young women took ownership in their writing and are sharing their own stories in their culture. In addition, WMF in collaboration with grassroots NGOs, creative writing workshops were conducted in low income neighborhoods in Cairo and Upper Egypt providing an opportunity for women to share their experiences and for enhancement of an awareness of gender rights.

This story-telling aspect of the project usually proves successful in uncovering forms of gender discrimination within the indigenous culture to a non-specialized audience and in empowering young females. However, the Women and Memory Forum did encounter challenges. Some professional popular literature scholars felt that the WMF was distorting classical texts. There were also those who felt the public performances of the stories exhibited aggressiveness and hostility to men.

By finding ways to publicize the women’s stories beyond the space of the workshop, WMF brought the issue of gender roles and gender representation to the attention of a greater public audience including very positive reactions from youth, young men and women, as well as media.

Are there similar examples out there?  Please share your stories here!

Example about challenging religious limitations

I know the example of a young woman who wanted to become a catholic priest. However, in her religion women cannot be priests; they can have a limited career in religion and become a deacon, but the most important services women cannot practice. Instead of giving up, she studied other Christian faiths, and found that they are basically the same religion. So she started a study to become an Anglican priest, and succeeded. 


What is faith-based peacebuilding? Why is it important to apply

By Mona Makhamreh, Masar for Human Development, Jordan

What is faith-based peacebuilding?

In Arab societies, people are very religious. They believe that religion should control their lives whether politically or socially. This applies to all religions, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Religion is a priority in our life; therefore faith-based peacebuilding takes on a particular importance in this region.

To me, faith-based peacebuilding is about finding a common understanding, for all of humanity. It means realising that we are all human. It is about finding common principles and values, which bring us together. It also means recognising that no religion, or people, is better than another. All humans are equal. We are all created by God and God loves us all equally, without any discrimination.

In the film “Gandhi”, about Gandhi’s life, there is a scene, which I find particularly significant. While Gandhi is fasting to stop the violence between Muslims and Sikhs, one of the men enters into his house and throws bread at him, ordering him to eat, because he cannot stand the burden of Gandhi dying. The man starts to cry and Gandhi asks him, “Why are you crying?” The man replies, “I killed a ten year old child just because of his religion.” Gandhi then asks him to adopt a child of that religion and raise him to respect the religion that the man hated and killed for. The lesson from this story is that Gandhi kept a clear mind; he had a spiritual sense of accepting all religions without any discrimination. If we can live with a pure heart like Gandhi, without any hate and any discrimination, we can accept each other and live together in peace. For me, that is what faith-based peacebuilding means.

Why is it important to apply a gender perspective to faith-based peacebuilding?

Different religious and social rules and norms apply to men and women and it is important to take these differences into account in faith-based peacebuilding.

In Arab countries, women are responsible for preserving the family honour. I grew up in a very conservative Christian family in Jordan. It was not easy because I was not free to go out. As a woman, you have to ask for permission to go anywhere or to meet with friends. Men, on the other hand, are free to go anywhere they wish. No one asks if they come home late in the evening. In Jordan, by law, if a woman gets raped, the rapist will not be punished if he marries her. Preserving the family honour is what is most important to many Jordanians. Another example is inheritance. In Jordan, in all families, all religions, it is common to put pressure on the women to give up their inheritance and give it to the men in the family.

In Jordan, what women wear and how they act is regulated by religion. Many people consider Christian women to be “easy”, because we don’t cover our hair and we sometimes wear short sleeves. They judge us, and they believe we are not religious, simply because we are not covered. Some Muslim women choose not to cover their hair, and people believe that they must be Christian. This does not hold true for men.

These different norms, rules and regulations for men and women must be taken into account for more effective faith-based peacebuilding.

Furthermore, in conflict situations, women are affected in different ways and because of this, they will often be more active than men in seeking peace. For example, in Iraq, women suffer more because of the conflict. They have to leave and run away from their homes when violence breaks out, flee to other cities and become displaced. Women risk being raped by armed men, and they need to be protected in different ways than men. In general, in conflict situations, women are responsible for protecting and feeding the family. Because of this, they are often more inclined to promote peace.

Thus, it is important to take into account the different roles played by women, men, girls and boys and how religion and conflict affects them in different ways.

Connection between gender and peacebuilding

Great discussion - I appreciate the various comments. I feel there are strong interconnections between faith, gender and peacebuilding, particularly around some of the core principles that I feel are common to each - collaboration, building partnership, being inclusive, thinking of the long term, sensitivity, power with rather than power over, and many others.

I'd like to share some material based on my work with women in different countries, and that of the Institute for Inclusive Security, about why women make good peacebuilders:

Women are adept at bridging ethnic, religious, political, and cultural divides. Social science research indicates that women generally are more collaborative than men and thus more inclined toward consensus and compromise. Women often use their role as mothers to cut across international borders and internal divides. Every effort to bridge divides, even if initially unsuccessful, teaches lessons and establishes connections to be built on later. 

Women have their fingers on the pulse of the community. Living and working close to the roots of conflict, they are well-positione to provide essential information about activities leading up to armed conflict and record events during war, including gathering evidence at scenes of atrocities. Women thus play a critical role in mobilizing their communities to begin the process of reconciliation and rebuilding once hostilities end. 

Women have access because they are often viewed as less threatening. Ironically, women’s status as second-class citizens in some countries is a source of empowerment, increasing women’s ability to find innovative ways to cope with problems. Because women are not ensconced within the mainstream, those in power consider them less threatening, and allow women to work unimpeded and “below the radar screen".

Women are highly invested in preventing, stopping, and recovering from conflict. Women are motivated to protect their children and ensure security for their families. They watch as their sons and husbands are taken as combatants or prisoners of war; many do not return, leaving women to care for the remaining children and elders. When rape is used as a tactic of war to humiliate the enemy and terrorize the population, they become targets themselves. Despite—or because of—the harsh experiences of so many who survive violent conflict, women generally refuse to give up the pursuit of peace.

Women often have the sensitivity, patience, listening skills, and innate collaborative skills that enhance their abilities as peacebuilders. What is important is to ensure that they become part of the formal peacebuilding process which has been heavily dominate by men. This is what UN Security Council Resolution 1325 is about. I'll write a post on this tomorrow.

Gender advantages

Kim. I like your summary of women's gender advantages: it's useful for argumentation.  My picture is related to yours. It seems to me that individual and group survival depend equally on cooperation and competition. Everyone has both capacities, but emphasis differs from person to person and from time to time. Overall, the skills for cooperation tend to be more highly cultivated among women; the skills for competition, more highly cultivated among men. When competition is most necessary for the immediate survival challenge, men's skill-set will come to the fore. When cooperation is most necessary for the immediate survival challenge, women's skill-set will come to the fore. But for the species as a whole to survive, in our time, cooperation must become the dominant practice; competition can only be productive in its service. Therefore women, and their skill-set, are rising and will continue to rise. The alternative appears to be the collapse of the human project, and I am optimistic enough to believe that we will escape that fate, God willing. As Dr. King said, rhe arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Faith based PB + Honour related violence and Interf.PB

Dear Mona Makhamreh

Thanks so much for your contribution. I can very much relate to what you are saying. I am also very happy you use an example of Ghandi-ji to illustrate your point. His belief in ahimsa (non-killing) and satyagraha (clinging to the truth) have been leading in the nonviolent struggle for India’s independence. For me, faith-based peacebuilding is all about how the key values of one’s particular faith/ spiritual tradition are guiding one’s peace activism. The values of nonviolence reflect key values from the world’s spiritual traditions. It means seeking friendship, building understanding amongst different people and joining hands for challenging injustices and injust systems, and not people. For indeed, as you say, we are all human beings and its this recognition which is crucial.

Thank you for the examples you mention related to family honour. I would be interested to know if the experiences Jordanian women have related to preserving the family honour are the same for Christian and Muslim women in Jordan? I would also be interested to know if you know of any examples of women and/or women+men’s groups for different religious denominations joining hands to challenge this in Jordan or other countries in the Middle East?

Thanks again,

Peace Jose de Vries

IFOR/Women Peacemakers Program

Honor crimes are not related to religion

Dear Jose,

Thanks for your kind reply to my post.

“Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.” Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

It’s all about learning how to forgive. God is merciful but Christians and Muslims commit honor crimes in the name of God while God is innocent of people’s acts. When Jesus dealt with the adulterous woman, He did not condemn her... on the other hand Islam put hard restrictions on women accused with adultery.

Honor killings are related to custom. They are related to stigma and the idea that women bring shame to the family and that the duty of the male in the family is to kill to clean the family honor. They are not related to religion. They are the same for Christians and Muslims.

In Lebanon, there is a group of young men and women joining hands to challenge this. They are non violent. They are called Lebanese Youth under the umbrella of the Lebanese Association for Civil Rights (LACR). 

Thanks for the reply. Do you

Thanks for the reply. Do you have the websie of the Lebanese Youth under the umbrella of the Lebanese Association for Civil Rights (LACR)? I googled it, and found an organization but the website wasn't working and I'm not sure if it was the same one. 


the struggle is real


Thank you for your thoughtful comments in regard to analyzing all religions on the subject of religion, gender and peacebuilding. As women theologians we can re-envision the roles of women in history, religion and culture to claim our space, voice and power moving forward, but not deny the destructiveness of religion. Feminist liberation theologians urge us to take our experience seriously, to join together as women of faith and claim a right to be more visible with authority. Women's oppression at the hand of culture and religion cannot be denied. Violence against women in the name of religion cuts across Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The struggle with invisibility and lack of agency does not mean it is futile to claim our sacred place in community.

Role of religion in the empowernment of women

Yes, Religion play a great role in the empowerment of women. Religion teaches rights, religion frowns at gender discrimination and comdemns all forms of abuse. At birth, gender equity/equality is established for women and the girl child (Quran 16 vs 57-59). Equal opportunity and access to education, employment etc. parents to counsel ward (male and female) through informal education and training (Q31 vs 13, Proverb 11 vs 14) into integrity, value and cooperation. gender and social construct to equal opportunity of care: rearing and upbringing, assignment and mental or Intelligent Quotient development (Q33 vs 34) and at marriage level (home) men on their physical strenght are to protect, provide and support the woman in all ramifications


(Prof) Sabit Ariyo Olagoke

Executive Director

Center for Religious Cooperation and Tolerance (CRCT)

Email- centerprojects2004@gmail.com

I agree with you, Professor.

I agree with you, Professor. It's important in this discussion to remember that religion is not the problem. The principles that all religions hold in common, like the one we call the golden rule, could be the solution. The problem is the arrogance of power that leads to violence and too often invokes the name of religion as cover for its deeds.

Charter for Compassion

Hi Mary

Thanks! When reading your comment, I was thinking of Karen Armstrong's "Charter for Compassion". Indeed, there is a need to reiterate the compassionate principles which are there in each religion and build on these. One multi-faith example addressing this is the "Charter for Compassion". 

"The Charter, crafted by people all over the world and drafted by a multi-faith, multi-national council of thinkers and leaders, seeks to change the conversation so that compassion becomes a key word in public and private discourse, making it clear that any ideology that breeds hatred or contempt – be it religious or secular – has failed the test of our time."

 More informaton the Charter can be found here: http://charterforcompassion.org/

I appreciate knowing these

By Jasmin Nario-Galace, Center for Peace Education, The Philippines

I appreciate knowing these particular verses from the Quoran. I say so because in a few workshops I participated in, some men have warned us not to introduce women's participation in the topic of peacebuilding. One said that such is against their culture and religion. In another workshop, a male professor said that women shouldn't be in leadership positions because they are emotionally unstable when their monthly period comes. He said that a woman's voice is seductive and is, hence, distracting. Most of the women in the group belonging to the same culture and religion were in tears. But there were some who came forward to dispute the allegation and cited a long list of  teachings from the religion disputing the claim. Such silenced the men.

I think knowing exactly what one's religion says is empowering. That's an initial step.It gives us the confidence to peacefully and nonviolently challenge hasty generalizations. Another tactic would be to find men from the same culture and religion who believe in your cause. There are many! After these workshops, some of the men came to us to dispute the opinion made. Let us engage them and together, plan how we could deconstruct traditional mindsets or challenge a dominant group's exclusive claim to privileges..

All major religious traditions of the world teach respect for human dignity. That is a shared ethical teaching. Let us continue finding ways to get that message to those who resist because they enjoy the privileges that go with exploiting another.

Jasmin Nario-Galace, Center for Peace Education, The Philippines

Muslim religious discourse...tell me more

Salams, Jasmin, I like your story. Knowing our religious resources well -- thoroughly, flexibly, radically -- is a tremendous strength. The more we remember Allah,and find our confidence in Allah, the less men's foolishness and malice are able to reduce us to tears. The "gender jihad" is a living thing, and we as Muslim women need to pursue it in the spirit of the original, meaning relentlessly and with complete compassion. How weak and far from God all tyrants are! Our object in staking our claim to the religious discourse must be to liberate our own men from the bondage of tyranny, nothing less. It's a prison, a poison, a curse. The thing they are protecting is destroying their being. They need us, whether they know it or not, far more than we need them. Our critique, and our insistence upon it, is their salvation. They will not find what they are looking for without us, either in this world or the next.

Please share some more of your experience.


Internalization of Marginalization

Dear Rabia,

Thank you for your comment.

I am concerned about women who get to internalize marginalization. Again, in one workshop where we were discussing the salient points of UNSCR 1325, some women said that such UN call was not applicable to their culture and were even echoing what some of their men usually say that women should be in the margins when it comes to decision-making or political governance.Some women from another culture expressed disappointment and passionately told them that was not how it should be. I was wondering after that if it was a good tactic. Since title of this blogsite is new tactics, I was wondering if it was better to engage women from the same cultrure who are more open to the principles of 1325 and encourage them to be the ones to talk to their own women. I think that if the suggestion comes from someone from another culture, the impact is different. The reaction becomes that of defense rather than openness.

Indeed, there is much to be done.

Thanks a lot. I appreciate participating in the exchanges here. I learned a lot.


Jasmin Nario-Galace




Have we got it backwards?

Warm greetings of peace to all,

I am perplexed whenever I encounter questions formulated along the lines of those we are trying to tackle now. For me, religion doesn't "play a role" in some bigger enterprise. Religion is the biggest enterprise going. But then, there are different definitions of what religion is.

I like the original derivation of re-ligio, or reconnecting. Where links that should be solid have been broken, we need to firm them up again, and that takes work. What links might those be? Links between the inside of us and the outside of us; between hearts and minds; between intentions and acts; between one person and another; between our tiny lives and ultimate reality. Gender work is a subset of this work. The whole pursuit of social justice derives its dignity and its power from being embedded in this work. Personally, I can't even think about those undertakings in another context. What could they mean, and how could they possibly succeed, if they are not in the service of relinking?

Particular communities of faith and practice are inheritors of particular sets of tools, and also of particular sets of problems. But that fact implies a whole series of separate conversations among the users of those particular tools, and the facers of those particular problems. We can't really share the conversations of practice communities we don't belong to, though we can occasionally sit in on them, and sometimes should.

We can certainly ask what is the significance to the world of the awakening of women around the world. What is is that we really need to say to each other now?  And why?



Okay, here are my answers to my own questions

Does anyone else remember the Gaia Hypothesis? Is our best connection to the divine these days through the spirit of the earth, rather than through the spirit of the heavens? I tend to think so, myself. (Muslims, consider Surah Zilzal). If so, women will probably come to the fore everywhere, and all our current struggles are birth pangs: we can take courage from that. The reason I am raising these images for us is that I am quite convinced that the work of peace requires workers who are present with peace. People who are trying to "make something happen"  live in anxiety; people who are assisting something happening live in serenity. I have certainly tasted both. Probably most of us have.

Does anyone else have the view that sharing our anxiety, and our serenity, is at least as important to the work before us as sharing our projects?

Birth and Dying

Mmm! Thank you, Rabia, for your wise and insightful comments. (I was at Stony Point in March and met Lynn, but you weren't there then. Hope we can meet some another time!)

You mentioned birth pangs and I thought of this line from Meister Eckhardt: “What does God do all day? God lies on a birthing bed, giving birth.” May we all be mothers and midwives for the peace that is to be!

On the shadow side, I often think of the ferocity of fundamentalism in some quarters as the death throes of the patriarchy. Maybe our task is to assist gently at the dying as well. At least I challenge myself to listen respectfully to the terrified right-wingers I meet and try to ease their anxiety, while respecting the anxious feelings that arise in me. I belong to a NonViolent Communication practice group and get very impatient with my slow unlearning of old, unhelpful responses, so I'm far from that goal, but I continue to pray for and work toward the serenity you suggest.

So how do we combine empathy (including self-empathy), boundless creativity, solidarity across divides, and patient, committed nonviolence with the degree of urgency that the plight of our Mother Earth seems to require? Something like D. Solle's revolutionary patience ....... no small task!

Plugging into the source and drawing strength from each other are the only ways. With our awesome God, by all God's names, and such splendid sisters, there is surely hope.

Mary Liepold, Peace X Peace


Does religion play a role in women's empowerment?

Thank you all for the insightful posts, and apologies for the late arrival. I fully agree that religion plays a role in the empowerment of women and as Mekka and others have said, it is how it is interpreted that fules war, conflicts and subordination of women. When we consider that most of those who have interpreted religion to the rest of us, are the same who hold positions of power throughout the world, males who are not willing, for their own self preservation, to  share or surrender their space, then we can understand how religion is is being manipulated to keep a section of society oppressed, for the domination of others. Indeed UNRS 1235 gives women a tool to claim that space, if they wait around for non-gender sensitive leaders to open up the opportunities to them, they are most likely to wait forever, So I agree with Mekka and others, that women must study, search and re-interpret their books of religion in order to identify the empowering parts that can be used to counter the opposing view. 

As a former women's rights trainer with an NGO, the Fiji Women's Rights Movement in Fiji and on occassions in partnership with the Ministry of Women, conduct training in indigenous villages (mostly Christians, although Fiji also has Muslims and Hindus), men including chiefs and villageheadmen have been part of the training. During discussions they would use selective texts to justify women's subordinate positions. To counter, I have used other parts of the Bible that also obliges men'sresponsibility to love and respect their wives (in the same text but men only select references to women); women and men are equal inheritors of the kindgon of God, God as creator treats everyone equally, all the religions of the world are foundered on the greatest principle of LOVE- defined by St Paul;s letter in 1 Corinthians 13 1-7) that does not justify any violence, conflict or war. Following the trainings, we discussed compiling frequently quoted texts men used to disempower women in order to do our own research to counter these from other parts of the Bible. Unfortunately we never got around to completing it, but I 've always insisted, that to know the "enemy" we must be strategically steps ahead of it (in a matter of speaking). I guess the responsibility falls again on those (to quote an oft used parable of the talents) "to whom much is given, much is expected." Those who have skills in rights based approach, are gender sensitive, and also operate from a spriritually/ faith-based/peace perspective, have a greater responsiblity to initiate such a dialogue. It can not be left to heads of religion, it is too critical a job to be left to others, so I congratulate the organisers of the current dialogue, and look forward to learning as much as I can and contribute whatever I can. 

Ema Tagicakibau, Campaigner for Gender, Peace & Disarmament, Auckland, NZ

Dear Ema, I do agree that

Dear Ema,

I do agree that following up and implementing the ideas to overcome the obstacles related to the gender-bias interpretation of the texts are often neglected due to lack of time, resources, possiblities to come together, etc. In the 2010 Interfaith consultation the women also identified the need for re-interprete the texts. But to find resources to undertake such a project is again very difficult, which leads to being left to those who are passionate about it to be done in the free time, without any support.

An interesting start about having a bible in fair language you can find here: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2023998,00.html

But we need more examples, including other faiths as well. Anyone having more examples of it?

Sharing interpretations of religious texts that empower women

Great idea!  It would be very useful to have a collection of examples on how religious texts have been interpreted (or re-interpreted) to empower women with a gender-balanced perspective.  Nelia Beth Scovill wrote an article titled "The Liberation of Women in Religious Sources" (published by The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics).

The article highlights and analyzes specific religious texts from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.  Definitely worth taking a look at.  Are there other resources like this out there that we can collect and share here?

The relationship between Faith, Peacebuilding and Gender

The role of faith and gender is crucial as most religions consider and indeed reinforce the view of women as inferior.

Religious doctrines and practices are fashioned around gender roles and responsibilities by the leaders or heads of these religious bodies who are of course men. Women on the other hand are socialised to believe that it is 'divine' order for women to play subservient roles. 

Faith, Gender and Peacebuilding

Religion plays a tremendous role in peacebuilding, particularly in societies where religious leaders play a role in community affairs. In the Nigerian context, there exists animosity between Christians and Muslims and this is particularly evident in the North. Moreover, faith plays a tremendous role in the lives of many Nigerians and religious leaders have play a role in mobilizing and providing hope to people. This considered it is essential that religious leaders promote tolerance, but also that they receive some formal training in conflict resolution.

Niger Delta Professionals for Development, recently participated in the Kaduna Dialogue Programme in Northern Nigeria with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Through this experience we learned that religious leaders play a huge role in teaching intolerance of other religions. Moreover, they have a tremendous influence on youth and their attitudes about other faiths, even where the underlying issue has nothing to do with religious difference. It became evident how easily faith can stir up emotions and incite violence. Where religious leaders can promote more tolerant language and attitudes, there would be a decrease in violent behavior. The promotion of interfaith dialogue and prayer, can also be useful in rebuilding relationships and strengthening bonds. Faith based peacebuilding does not rest solely on the shoulders of religious leaders, it is also the responsibility of parents to promote tolerance of other faiths within the home and to ensure that their children are being taught the proper interpretation of their faith.

The use of faith-based peacebuilding would include women as, the proper interpretation of religion promotes both equality and peace. The inclusion of women in faith based peacebuilding is possible and it starts at the dialogue level, this is a non-confrontational means for individuals to share their concerns and experiences with violence, and toward paving a way forward. In most societies, religious leaders are not women, however this does not mean that women are to be excluded from the process. Empowering women to play a role in community decision-making structures, allows women to advocate for peace and to work with other leaders (religious, political and traditional) toward reaching the common goal of peace. In our work in the Niger Delta, we have empowered numerous women to gain a greater voice and through this they have been able to address some of the root causes of conflict, such as underdevelopment and neglect. In societies suffering from underdevelopment, promoting religious tolerance is essential, as it allows for people to refocus their energies on the common goals of peace and development.

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