Maktaba-e-Anaveem Pakistan
(Peoples' Forum for Contextual Theologies)

The Women's Role in the Pakistani Church - Solidarity and Dialogue with Women

Woman Theological Forum (WTF) organized a training session for women on 18-21 October, 2018 at Theological Institute for Laity (TIL), G. T. Road Sadhoke. 50 participants attended the seminar from different cities of Pakistan. Mrs. Sajida Pervez (Chef-Coordinator – WTF) introduced WTF and welcomed the participants. Mrs. Alishbah Javed Akhtar (Directress-MAP) elaborated aims and objectives of the seminar. She said WTF focuses that women leaders have to come forward and speak about their role in the church and society. The following topics were discussed in the training session.

1. Women’s Leadership in Our Time
Ms. Sunila Ammar (Lay theologian and women rights activist). She pointed out women are not accepted as leaders, they face much hurdles, challenges and obstacles than men in every field of life and not acknowledged and respected. Women’s leadership should be bolder and efficient as they are regarded inferior than men. This is needful that we should promote women leadership in our churches and society. We should not be a barrier in women’s path to be a leader.

2. Women’s Equality, Dignity and Freedom
Ms. Ayra Inderyas was the resource person for the topic “Women’s Equality, Dignity and Freedom”. She said that what is the meaning of women’s equality in society, equal rights, equal opportunities, equal education, equal medical facilities. But what type of equality, equality in basic needs or equality in Justice. In comparison with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India in Pakistan the index of death of women is high. We have to think about this to make this ratio low. She explained we are living in the patriarchal/male dominating society. We have to do effort to make a society where we can get equal rights and equal opportunities of thinking and justice.

3. Women’s Role in the Church
Ms. Noureen Akhtar (Lay theologian Woman rights activist) delivered her lecture, she encouraged the participants for their participation. The initiative was about the UDHR articles about the human rights. 1. Article 1: All humans being are created free and equal in dignity and rights.
2. Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
3. Articles 16: Men and women have a right to marry, to found a family and are entitled to equal rights as to marriage and its dissolution.
4. Article 18: Everyone has the rights to freedom of thought, conscience… And the Pakistani Constitution
5. Article 14- Dignity of all; no torture at all
6. Article 25- Equality for all
7. Article 35- Protection of marriage, family (man/woman) & child

In the biblical perspective the equality of men and women through Jesus Christ, perfected divine regard for each human being; recognized the dignity of every human being regardless of their religious, social & gender differences. She added with the difference between sex and sexism. Sexism is a belief that individuals are superior or inferior to one another on the basis of their sex.

In our society and church, we can see that women are limited to have their equal rights. They are not allowed to get high education. They have no opportunities to fulfill their potential in leadership. Majority of women cannot claim their basic rights because of gender discrimination. The speaker appreciated the participants, for they were eager to participate and sharing their views.

4. Solidarity and Dialogue with Women
Mrs. Naureen Haroon Gill reminded the participants that church is in solidarity and dialogue with women. She gave reference of a letter by Pope Francis to all women of the world. This a positive change and new way of thinking about the status of women. This letter was a sign of solidarity and gratitude to each woman throughout the world and was a kind of dialogue and also apology to women for wrong done in the past.

The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) in 1993, suggested to set up a commission to promote dialogue between men and women in the Church especially in decision making. Women Desk of FABC brought together the Bishops and women to discuss and dialogue on women’s issues. Through dialogue there is transformation and assigning new tasks; becoming missionary.

She said that Vision of God’s Kingdom is only possible when all individuals: men and women are allowed the means towards growth: human dignity, equality and freedom leading to fullness of life, life in abundance. Women has a special role in the church as said by Pope Francis. Mother Mary the first disciple is the role model for us.

Administrative matters
In the end, the participants nominated new WTF Coordinators, who were given different tasks and were asked to report to the central office. Ms. Rachel Joseph (Group member Essa Nagri Group Karachi) was appointed as Assistant Chief Coordinator – WTF. She shared her views and assured her full devotion and commitment with WTF and MAP. In the end, the participants were given certificates.