by Carrie Diaz-Littauer, Diocese of New Jersey
It feels like I have been here for much more than three days. Hearing women’s stories from Thailand, to North Carolina, to Haiti and Bahrain, I feel surrounded by the needs, hurts, and continued perseverance of women worldwide. While the obstacles and statistics feel insurmountable at times, the presence and honesty of those here this week continue to empower me to hope for change.
Yesterday our delegation had the incredible opportunity to meet with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and we sought answers and advice on the status of women from a leading faith perspective. She stressed to us the importance of viewing and meeting others “incarnationally”. What would the world be like if we could view our neighbors, our enemies, or the oppressed not as such, but as blessings? As gifts? As fellow human beings that can teach, enrich, and bless our own existence?
This week I have only begun to explore the lamentable realities in societies that have ceased to view and hope in humanity in this way. When societies stop valuing what a young girl might add to the conversation, stop hoping in their potential, or stop searching for the blessings they can offer to the wider society, we find ourselves in the situations of today; where girls do not have access to basic math education, to science and technology, because they are deemed “not worth it”; where children are forced into sex-trafficking and exploitation; where, even in the U.S., young kids are working on farms completely unprotected by law. I grieve for a world which does not value our children enough to give them access to basic rights.
Yet even amidst the difficult statistics and experiences being thrown our way this week, I find hope in the mobilization of faith leaders, activists, women and men, young and old fighting for change. Whether it means distributing plastic whistles in Haiti, telling stories with Thai puppets, meeting in caucuses or for coffee, small waves of change are rippling throughout the world. While I continue to struggle to find my place amongst this change, I am hopeful, grateful, and motivated to be a part of it this week. I continue to be amazed by the blessings in others around me, and continue to ponder the words of the Bishop as they pertain to the status of women and girls.