CCW60 –Women’s Engagement in Interfaith Dialogue and Sustainable Peace

CSW60 logoThe 60th Commission on the Status of Women was held at the UN in New York in March 2016. An Introduction to the Commission and the Agreed Conclusions can be found in the entry just below this one.  The following is a report on one of the events during the Commission.

In What Ways Can Increased Engagement of Women in Interfaith Dialogues Contribute to Advances in the Search for Sustainable Peace?
CSW60 Side Event March 16, 2016

Ms. Salif Kader, founder and president of the United Federation for Peacekeeping and Sustainable Development, opened by commenting on how disheartening she finds all the hate in the media. In our effort to fight all aggression, the only way we have is communication, dialogue. Women suffer most from aggression, but we can make difference to stop all atrocities in name of religion.

Rabbi Danielle Stillman, director of Jewish Student Life and Chaplain at Lehigh University, shared her varied experiences of Jewish, Hinduism (her degree topic at Harvard Divinity School) and religion of Tibet. Rabbi Stillman began with a traditional Hebrew saying: “Who is wise? The one who learns from all people.” She certainly embodies that! Her interest in religions began when she was an undergraduate, she explained, watching the dedication with which Tibetan women went about picking up worms at the Dalai Lama’s house, to keep them from injury.

On another excursion, to Jerusalem, she learned from Israeli and Palestinian women who were eager to learn about each other’s religion, visiting each other’s churches and synagogues. In interfaith dialogue, she concluded, we learn that every person is really in the image of God.

Mrs. Guang Guo Shih, a Buddhist abbess originally from Taiwan but now for a long time in New York, shared some Buddhist concepts about women. Feminine attributes exist in both men and women, she said, but women excel in interdependent relationality, compassion, caring for and loving others. In Chinese, compassion means easing the obstacles of others and so seeing the balance of the world. Practices of compassion, she said, will lead to relationships and harmony, and ultimately to recognition of the interdependence of all humans. Meditation brings inner peace to each individual; this grounds the peace of all humanity

Several women from the Moroccan parliament (I could not get their names) commented through translators. One spoke of the need to find common goods and needs, instead of focusing on differences. The main role of humans, she said, is to further the natural evolution of the world.

In Morocco, she said, all religions have a right to practice their own beliefs. To make interfaith dialogue possible and fruitful, we must go back to core of each religion, to see it without the cultural and ideological interpretations. Such dialogue is necessary to recognize the diversity of perspectives so the people can practice different religions within the same culture. This can build up the common culture. Many Islamic leaders are looking back to the core of Islam and at the core of other religions, to see that they share the same basic beliefs.

The moderator mentioned that one of the Moroccan women saw their interfaith beliefs in her own life when her Muslim child was nursed by a Jewish woman.

The next panelist, Rev. Dionne Boissiere, is head of the ecumenical Church Center at the United Nations, run by United Methodist Women. [We have many of our meetings at the Center.] Rev. Boissiere began by inviting us into a moment of silence, citing our tendency as women to “move around a lot.” She then declared that women absolutely must be included in the work for sustainable development and peace with justice. We have to stand as who we are, with our complex experiences, to be part of all the dialogues. We must break down the walls of hate and prejudice, of extremism, which does not lend itself to reasonable thinking or to true religious practice. She is frustrated when dialogue ends with talk; we must listen and then work together toward an interfaith life.

Mrs. Kopila Thapa, of Katmandu, our final panelist, is Hindu and works in gender and development in South Asia, especially Thailand and Cambodia. Mrs. Thapa explained that peace is an essential part of Hinduism, a part of the beauty and unity in diversity essential in Nepal’s constitution. Some tenets of Hindu belief emphasize peace. For instance, belief in reincarnation leads to understanding that the violence we do will bring harm to us. Another is that inner peace must precede public peace.

60th Commission on the Status of Women

CSW60 logoThe 60th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60)Introduction

Each year , the Commission brings together reports on women’s lives, struggles and progress to the UN. At the end of the Session, a document of Agreed Conclusions is presented to the President of the General Assembly for action in the coming year. In this entry and the next several, I present, first the final summary of the work of the Commission, and then reports of a few of the “side events” that accompany the major sessions, which led to the Agreed Conclusions.

CSW60 Agreed Conclusions
The full document is available here

The 14-page “outcome document,” revised throughout the meetings and approved by the Commission, reaffirms all previous documents about the rights of and need to eliminate violence against women and girls. Expressing concern particularly for the continued feminization of poverty and the inordinate effects of violence and conflict on women and children, the members of the Commission call for increased attention, policy-making, and funding to advance the equality of women and men and to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Noting the increased recognition of equality as essential for a better world, “The Commission welcomes the commitments to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognizes that women play a vital role as agents of development and acknowledges that realizing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is not only a goal in itself but will make a crucial contribution to progress across all Sustainable Development Goals and targets.”

The Commission also acknowledged the importance of the newly-instituted Youth Forum and strongly advocated for the inclusion of women’s and young people’s voices in all implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and for gender equality as a central element of all implementing of the Agenda.