Gender and spirituality: Regaining voices for gender justice

by Cheon Young Cheol

The Council for World Mission Gender and Spirituality programme, held 26-29 November in Lusaka, Zambia, drew 29 participants from all five CWM member churches in Africa.

The program is designed to educate, equip, and empower grassroots advocates to introduce alternative missiological thinking into local societies as a panacea for entrenched gender injustices.

Deep conversation and dialogue rigourously interrogated and challenged the role of religious and theological narratives that sustain and further gender injustice.

Participants learned how to move away from the usual rhetoric of ”lending voices to the voiceless” toward helping those who have been silenced regain their voices.

The chains of religion

In many of Africa’s Indigenous religious traditions, women and men have to contend not just with vastly different roles and societal expectations, but also how these roles manifest as chains that define their experience and expressions of their spirituality.

These chains were forged via the reading of religious texts with a bias towards suppression and oppression, rampant socio-community stratification, objectification of humanity, and damages to the family economy.

The results are gender-based violence, child marriages, femicide, rape, human trafficking, genital mutilation, estate disputes, economic imbalances, and inequality in gender-based decision-making.

Amplifying wise voices

As part of an immersive experience, participants came alongside a congregation of more than 200 as they attended a candle-lighting service at the United Church of Zambia to raise awareness and take a stand against gender-based violence. Every candle lit during the service represented a spark of hope, strength, and a prayer for healing for all those affected by such acts.

The programme also coincided with a “16 Days of Activism” march held in the same city where Rev. Dr Sindiso Jele, CWM’s Mission Secretary for Social Justice and the Africa Region was the guest speaker.

“Everyone has a voice,” reminded Jele in his address to the gathered public during the march.

“There are voices and wisdom in the margins,” stressed Jele. “The concept of the Kingdom is innately hierarchical and patriarchal; there is a need to move from ‘Kingdom’ to ‘Kin-ship’.”

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