Religion against hatred, and for democracy, peace and tolerance

1325During the Session of the Council of Europe, October 2016,  Anje Wiersinga participated in a side event  sponsored by 3 Parliamentarians of PACE ( Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe). The theme of the event was “Religion against hatred, and for democracy, peace and tolerance”

The organisers, the speakers and most of its audience were men. The most interesting speaker was an Orthodox Priest from the Ukraine. I cannot give his name, since this was not on the list and there was no program.

He informed us of a 20-year old Ukrainian Council, in which 18 different religious communities come together, including several Protestants, Catholic, Jewish, Moslim, Armenian  and several orthodox communities.  They work together on the basis of equality whatever their size. They comprise about 95% of the population he said.

He also mentioned that Russia is trying to initiate an inter-religious war in Ukraine; so far without success, even the Moscow branch of the orthodoxy signed a common statement.

When question time finally came, the chair chose persons in the audience to comment. It was all prearranged. It was all very, very conservative. Women were only mentioned as mothers. So as one of the two women in the audience I raised my hand and got the floor.

After saying something nice about the Ukrainian Statement, I continued as follows:

You only spoke about women as mothers, what about the role of women, like myself, who have no children? You said that women should be ‘elevated’. I agree with you some women need assistance to be elevated, as there are also men who need assistance to be elevated.

What role about those women who are already elevated? Such as the Syrian Women Forum for Peace and the Libyan Women Forum for Peace? Those women want to take part in conflict resolution and in peacetalks; they have formulated what they want, what is needed. However, in spite of the UN SC Res.1325, which says that women should be included, they are not. 

It is the Burundi women who orchestrated peace in their country, which led to the UN SC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. So did the Liberian Women, they received the Nobel Peace prize for this.

The reaction and discussion which followed reinforced my impression that they had never heard or thought about this before. As the chair of the side event is a member of the PACE sub-committee on the Arab Region, I hope he will remember this.

Mr.Wafik Moustafa, Chair of the British Arab Network, was interested in what I said and we discussed this further afterwards; we will also keep in contact about the book “The Forgotten Queens of Islam“.by the Maroccan Historian Fatima Mernissi.

Dear Mr Moustafa,

We met last week at the side event in Strasbourg on “Religion against hatred, and for democracy, peace and tolerance”

I mentioned the 19 women who were Heads of an Islamic State, as described by the Maroccan Historian Fatima Mernissi in her book “The Forgotten Queens of Islam“. You were interested.

The 19 women she describes received the approval of the Caliph and they were mentioned in Friday Prayers, the Khutba. Nearly all Islamic countries had one except Saudi Arabia.

Yemen had two Heads of State over a period of 80 years. The beauty is that they did not take power, but they were given power.

Personally I advocate to tell these wonderful stories in schools; it could lead to a discussion on religious thoughts on the role of men and women, whereas girls could find role models in these women.