The 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.