by Shannon Preston, Diocese of Minnesota
Much of the advocacy work here ultimately seems to challenge the patriarchal paradigm. Today Maddy and I attended a Beijing Circle workshop. In it we spoke in small groups about how to make our communities safe for women and girls. After several minutes we rotated groups and focused on how we can include men and boys in making safe communities for men and women. In our opinion it seems that challenging the patriarchal paradigm not only liberates women from oppression but could also liberate men. The vision of many NGO’s is for full equality of men and women, unity in diversity. It seems that so often men are not able to express what they feel, to have a true “heart to heart.” What if men and women could share and listen what is on their heart with one another. That was the vision we left with on these circles. We thought of possible solutions. Our group found writing and personal invitation to be a possible way to reach out to men and women to create safe spaces. The idea of these circles is that those involved will bring what they have learned with them and it will ripple out. (A purpose of these circles is to bring a 5th World Conference of Women to the UN schedule.)
In the morning I had a wonderful conversation about some work being done in the Anglican Communion. There are people dedicated to changing the perception of religion as something that is corrupt and ignorant. She is doing research to provide statistics people can use to see that faith does make a difference (this case specifically is how faith is helping people in Africa). A talking point of Ecumenical Women is to add faith groups into an NGO. In the increasingly secular world faith communities are looked down upon and there are so many here who show what amazing things people of faith (and thus faith communities) have to offer.
We had a dinner with Ecumenical Women. It began with a short service and then dinner. It is wonderful to be grounded with prayer to ground us in this heavy work. At services we gather together and find hope, strength, and support. The dinner was beautiful. Here was a room full of people advocating for justice with and because of God. A room full of people who were smiling and enjoying one another despite having a weight of seeing all kinds of injustice, a room where light shines through darkness.