This morning here at the Global Faith Forum there was a conversation between three women representing the three Abrahamic faiths. I have interweaved my notes of the session which had a lot of back and forth.
The first woman was Dr Nia Mackay. She is a Muslim, and originally from Indonesia. She grew up in a family that encouraged children to think. and was taught that whatever you do should be for the love of God. She was shocked to hear that some women in Islamic countries were not allowed to be educated or drive a car. In the Quran it is a generic male/female version of the word “man” that is used to describe people who it has been given to learn. In the USA most people thought she was a Christian. She didn’t follow any dress codes at first when she lived here. When she was pregnant she suddenly was afraid of how long she had to live, and wanted to be obedient to God. She then decided to wear a headscarf. Which she prefers to the full covering of the face. In the question time, she said that the Quran says you shouldn’t cover the face, but the prophet’s wife did wear the full covering.
The second speaker was Rabbi Ariel Boxman She said that she grew up in a Jewish home, and was very rebellious. At sixteen she suddenly decided she wanted to be a Christian. She put up a Christmas Tree in her bedroom. Her father sent her to Israel on a trip and said that if she came back still wanting to be a Christian, he would drive her to the church himself. There she found a relationship with the God of Ariel. When she came back she wanted to be a Rabbi.
Then Dale Hanson Bourke spoke as a Christian. She grew up with a sense of direction. As a follower of Jesus she felt she was supposed to care for others and use her talents to move forward. Combined a business career and humanitarian work, sitting on boards of organizations. Often the first woman on those boards. Looking back she sees God’s direction in her life.
Islam recognizes equality in worship, women are seen as a partner in the family, obtaining knowledge. Children are nutured by the mother, so if we have educated mother the kids will do better. In many cultures the women have the choice, and they wear the scarve to please God and him only. She acknowledged that some cultures do put pressure on women to cover up. In Islam women were given the right to agree or not to marry the choice of their parents. Muhammad refused to be the witness for a marriage when the two partners hadn’t even met. They have rights to do business, and own a house.
There are very different views of women in Judaism. As a reformed Jew, Ariel is allowed to be a Rabbi, this is not true in some branches. Men and Women are created equal, but with more “bina” which is understanding, intuition and intelligence. Women don’t need as many commandments to be kept in line because they just get it. In biblilcal times women were allowed to buy, sell and own property. They had the right to do business. (Proverbs 31). In Judaism sex is the right of a woman. A man must provide food, clothing and sexual pleasure in marriage according to the marriage contract.
Traveling internationally she has seen that there is a view that Christianity and politics have converged. Viewed as conservative politically. Christians have to be careful that we are stereotyped, but need to live our life in a way that disrupts those stereotypes. Some people are more afraid of evangelical Christians than they are of Muslims, Jews or anyone else.
Muslim women should respect those of other opinions. If that doesn’t hurt anybody else we are obligated to get to know each other, live peacefully, and love each other.
Jewish women believe that men and women are created equally but we have our differences. In Exodus the women were the only ones that did not help to build the Golden Calf. Jewish women are rewarded by a special holiday once a month, a day of rest for women. Should celebrate what they do have rather than regret what they don’t.
Conservative women often care deeply about their sisters. They can often also work within their cultures to gently promote change. As a Christian woman, she believes in a very personal relationship with God, and spends time each day praying and listening to God. She has an ongoing dialogue with God.
Ariel believes it is important to build relationships across faith. She has brought women together especially in an interfaith context. There is a power in women to create peace.
Muslim women believe that behind every president is a First Lady. Eve was made from a rib of a man, and so are meant to be side by side with men. If women’s rights are applied then a lot can be achieved. Women can make the world a better place.
Women want to survive war for the skae of the children. Women want to cme together. Faith doesn’t usually keep them apart.