The Women Doing Theology Workshop was held from November 14-22, 2009 in Jakarta, Indonesia on the theme “Women and Identity”. 18 young women from Asia and the Pacific participated in the said workshop, representing the SCM National movements of Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Timor Leste and Thailand.
The 9 days workshop focused on the general and broad theme “Women’s Liberation and Transformation” with a specific focus on “Women and Identity”. The objectives of the workshop were:
The process and methodology of the workshop was based on the steps/tools of a critical feminist hermeneutics of liberation by using feminist critical analysis, participants shared Her Story of their life experiences, struggles, challenges as women in their own context.
Thematic inputs by the resource persons on: Women’s Identity in Islam, Socio-political, cultural and religious implications on women’s identity in Indonesian context; Doing Critical Feminist Liberation Theology and A Critical Feminist Hermeneutics of Liberation, Re-reading selected Biblical texts using critical feminist hermeneutics. Exposure to the local communities to understand and experience the struggles and challenges of women in Indonesian context.
The following resource persons were present to facilitate the whole process:
Sharing of Her Story was an essential process of the WDT workshop, this was a space for the women to share and listen to each others life story as we engaged in doing theology. Sharing of Her Story initiated a process of storytelling on women and identity and enabled them to articulate and critically analyzed their own life story to understand and reclaim their identity. The critical analysis of their own story led them to identify the factors which are the stumbling blocks in reclaiming their identity. This process helped the group to realize that though the struggle for women’s emancipation is common, but the struggles and challenges women are confronted in their lives are diverse and multifaceted. The, group were encouraged to tell their stories and do feminist critical analysis, of their life experiences, struggles, challenges as women in their own context. Sharing Her Story was the basis to set tune for the rest of the process in the workshop.
During this process the facilitator Ting Jin conducted various group dynamics and helped the participants to realize how the Bible have authority over us and how it is used against and for us. This was followed by the Bible study Who is Martha? Who is Mary? (Luke 10:38-42).the facilitator explained that this text comes to us and stays in our memory as it was traditionally preached or taught normally. Therefore we remember what was told about the text than what is in the text. while re-reading this text she explained, traditional interpretation reflects but also reinforces kyriarchal power relations of domination and subordination based on socialized gender roles.
She explained how the term integrated “diakonia” was separated into two models of ministry, and “diakonia” as narrowly defined into “serving”. The one integral meaning, role and praxis of “diakonia” were “eucharistic table service, proclamation, and ecclesial leadership”. She said, Martha is the subject, she welcomes Jesus to her house. she is preparing for the function and role of “eucharistic table service, proclamation, and ecclesial leadership” in her house church. Therefore we need to deconstruct and reconstruct of the text. And in this process the reader is the critically conscious subject self. While re reading this selected text together by using critical feminist hermeneutics was an eye opening for many and the group themselves were able to discovered many new things/insights during this process.
Tingjin explained and helped the group to understand the 4 paradigms:1. Doctrinal-Revelatory Paradigm, 2. Scientific-Positivist Paradigm, 3. Hermeneutic-Cultural Paradigm, 4. Rhetorical-Emancipatory Paradigm and how it is used to study Bible and how the 4th paradigm a fundamental shift and break from paradigms 1, 2 and 3 for the model of “ekklesia”
Women's Identity in Islam was facilitated by the Islamic feminist Amina Wadud. This session was more of dialogue with the resource person. The group discussed about polygamy, Sharia law, women religious leaders in Islamic community, the struggle and obstacles for gender justice etc. She explained to the group that there are no roles designated for women in the Qur’an except khalifah (a khalifah is one who is a trustee of Allah). Women and men are created to serve Allah, each other and the creation as agents or trustees of God.
As a moral relationship: everything that enhances fulfilling that khilafah is encouraged everything that limits fulfilling that khilafah is discouraged. The most noble of you in the sight of God is the one with the most taqwa .Taqwa is a moral spiritual term that carries the dimension of awareness and remembrance of Allah, action, transparency in actions, moral responsibility. The Qur’anic Models Eve: Hawa’a, Aasiyah, Bilqis: leadership, Maryam: mother of Jesus. It was also interesting to know that when she explained, in Quran its mentioned that both Adam and Eve are responsible for disobeying God. This helped to rethink how Christianity has created the image of Eve as a sinner. She said, Gender relations are prescribed and promoted in families. Gender asymmetry has been a major part of human culture and history. She said, Muslim women in every country, every economic class, every level of education, every spiritual inclination are engaged in transforming life for the betterment of all humankind.
Socio-political, cultural and religious implications on women’s identity in Indonesian context was facilitated by Anna Marsiana. Anna tried to give a general picture of the status of women in Indonesia. She said, Indonesia is declared as a Muslim state and the religious laws/family laws are implemented faithfully which are often biased against women. Indonesian society is highly patriarchal and man is the decision maker for everything including what kind of clothes women should wear. Women have a secondary status in the socio, political field and women are more vulnerable economically. Many young women are forced to migrate to other countries as domestic workers. It is a challenge to talk about religious and cultural implications against women within the community, because the laws are accepted within religion and the oppression and exploitation is carried out in the name of religion. So there is a small room to talk against the laws and its quite challenging to bring awareness within the Indonesian community. Yet, there are women’s groups and social movements trying hard to make people understand and change the mindset of the people, and the good thing is gradually changes are happening.
The participants were divided into 2 groups to visit the communities.
Group 1. Visited the National Commission on Violence against Women, Migrant Care, and Association of Migrant Workers . They met and interacted with the women domestic migrant workers, heard their painful stories as well as courageous stories of their life experiences when they lived in a strange/ foreign land. Some of them were raped, sexually abused, and exploited by their employers, even some of their friends are being killed. But the government does not help or has not taken any serious action against the violence occurring to the women. The group was able to analyse the issue as a power game and political abuse for economic reasons. Indonesia is one of the largest exporters (sending countries) of domestic workers in South East Asia. The government is definitely benefiting by the remittance, hence the government is promoting the labor export policy. On the other hand majority of the Indonesian women do not have any choice, but migrate to other countries for survival of their families back home.
The National Commission on Violence against Women, Migrant Care, and Association of Migrant Workers are providing shelter, legal support to the women and advocating against the labor export policy.
Group 2. Visited Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace(ICRP) and the Islamic college of Nurul Kasyat – the Pesantren putri (boarding school for females). The group met with ICRP they explained that more then 80% of the total population in Indonesia are Muslim, hence Islam and religious laws plays a significant role in the country. The government has declared Indonesia a Muslim state and has literally imposed on citizens to identify themselves by a religion. It is mandatory for every citizen to mention religion in their ID cards. The Sharia Islamic law is biased against women and women’s identity has to be identified with a male member of the family. Motherhood is a strong part of identity among Muslim women in Indonesian community. The issue of polygamy is having a significant influence on women and affecting them socially, politically, economically. The laws are sanctioned by the religion, and imposed on women in the name of religion.
Visiting the 2nd place the Islamic college of Nurul Kasyat – the Pesantren putri (boarding school for females) was very meaningful and related to the theme “women and identity” of the workshop. They women students study religion – Islam, but they cannot become the leader or Ulema. The female students have no choice and freedom what they want or how they decide for their own life. The authority of the boarding school will decide and determine their life. In the name of religion, the school will control, and shape their identity how Muslim women should be.
Social Location and Domination-Subordination Analysis was facilitated by Ting Jin, she said It is important to analyse, examine our own social location and participation in the power relation of domination and subordination. become conscious of how our experiences are constructed by you yourself / we ourselves and construct your/ our self identity in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, age, class, sexuality, nationality/ nation, colonialism, education, state, social status, health, geographical location. Social location group categories / systems and structures – interfere/ interact / multiply each other in different situation, context etc. by these and through these categories women are assigned identities, women and individuals are defined, determined, constructed, which are not voluntary. Social, cultural and religious location has shaped our life experience. All are social, cultural and religious construction. She challenged us to ask ourselves who am I? What am I? Who defines my social location? In whose interest within the structures/system? Who does it function /work?
Reclaiming self as a subject within the Ekklesia of Wo/men. Tingjin said our own self is a constructed self, a lot of self denial, self hate and self alienation. We need to reclaim and re affirm our own self as subject. Love of self – as a subject, meaning we must have faith in our own self. Self love, self realization, self- affirmation and reclaim self as a subject. At the end of the session Tingjin asked every one to make a paper bird and write down there how are we going to determine our identity, and how are going to affirm our own self as subject as an act of commitment.