Ripples of WDP 2018
From June 13th - 17th women church leaders participated in the Certificate Course of Ecumenical Formation for Gender Justice. The course was organized by Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India in partnership with Women’s Fellowship of Church of South India and Australian Church Women Inc. Together we sang the song above as we blessed a tree in our vicinity and mother Earth. We danced and celebrated life by affirming ‘All God’s Creation is Very Good.’
World Day Prayer (WDP) 2018 had rippling effects throughout India. Not only did women church leaders commemorate WDP, and come to learn about Suriname, they also renewed their commitment to reflect their faith in action. An eco-pilgrimage was organized in a Visthar campus, a secular civil society organization committed to social justice and peace.
During the eco-pilgrimage we visited different eco-sanctuaries including an abandoned well, which we blessed together. The well is a symbol of life in Indian traditions as water sustains life. Indian women play a crucial role in daily water management. They suffer the most when wells dry up and rivers get polluted. They are forced to walk longer distances to find water and face gender based violence on unsafe roads. Visiting the well in Visthar helped us renew our spirituality to share the unheard stories of the indigenous, rural and urban women who make an effort to heal the wounds of mother Earth, like the rural women of the Himalayan region who spearheaded the Chipko Andolan, a nonviolent social and ecological movement aimed at protecting trees slated for government-backed logging. The Hindi word chipko means “to hug” or “to cling to” and reflects the demonstrators’ primary tactic of embracing the trees to impede the loggers.
Participants of the Certificate Course for Gender Justice included 33 women leaders, man pastors, and missionaries. Men were also involved because, as pastors and missionaries, they need to be empowered to build inclusive communities that can end gender based violence. We also wanted to create awareness among them about how prayer movements like WDP can be used to promote gender justice.
This course provided a scope not only to explore strategies and discover methods to deal with the pandemic of gender based violence in India, but also explore the nexus between ecological devastation and violence against women and children. While environmental degradation affects women most, rural and indigenous women who are aware about conserving nature and environmental issues, have been able to make a significant difference to the environment in tangible ways. They are inspiring examples in water conservation, waste management, energy efficiency at home and family planning. Women environmental activists have also proven to change the status of women, particularly in rural communities, creating empowerment opportunities beyond the environmental benefits.
This movement of ‘Informed Prayer & Prayerful Action’ provides Indian churches and women’s fellowships in churches the opportunity to promote the ‘Thursdays in Black Campaign’ to create a ‘World Free of Rape and Sexual Abuse’. Women and girls are at high risk of getting raped in India and many children face sexual abuse including boys. World Day of Prayer is helping equip church leaders and communities with the awareness to promote gender justice in India.
- Moumita Biswas, WDPIC Asia Regional Rep.