The Religious Consultation on Population,
Reproductive Health & Ethics
4, No. 1 May 2000
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Review of What We Have Accomplished — All in Six Years!
The Consultation is six years
old, just a toddler in NGO terms, but what a precocious toddler it has
been! At its birth, the challenge was to recruit an international collegium
of first-rate scholars, all of whom were at the progressive feminist front
line of major indigenous religious traditions. We saw ourselves from the
start as a necessary counterforce to the religious right that so often
seizes center stage in many religions. Witness the Vatican and the conservative
Muslims in the United Nations. They give the popular impression that all
religions are stubbornly conservative and unhelpful on issues like reproductive
health, ethics, and the empowerment of women.
Our strategy has
been to bring together 10-12 of our scholars for two four-day sessions,
first to plan the particular project and then engage a university press
to publish our findings. The scholarly volume is followed by a popularly
written volume and outreach to the press, to policymakers, and to other
NGOs in the field.
How have we done? Well enough for The Ford Foundation to give us another
three years of general support and for The David and Lucile Packard
Foundation to fund our latest project. Twice we have won support from
the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. We have also gotten
support from the General Service Foundation and the United Nations Fund
for Population Activities. Our projects have been —
Population, Consumption, and
What Men Owe to Women
Muslim Women’s Empowerment
Women’s Religious Wisdom on Sexuality
The Right to Family Planning, Contraception, and
Abortion in Ten World Religions
Along with minor publications, we
have two books published and three more in press. (See Book Reviews
and Books in Press in this issue.)
Other projects are already in
the planning stage —
Negative effects of heterosexism. We
are now seeking funding for a project to explore how heterosexism assaults
the civil rights of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons, scape-goated
as they are by fundamentalist and right-wing religious leaders. Beyond
this, we want to stress that heterosexism also poisons the attitudes
of heterosexual persons toward sexuality and mutuality in relationships,
and thus it is an issue of reproductive health. The sexual and reproductive
ethics of gay and lesbian people has been too little addressed by progressive
The use/misuse of religion as
justification for the oppression of women.
A group of progressive religious
scholars writing and speaking out on this misuse of religion could provide
an important counterweight to the negative, fundamentalist elements
who dominate the media and claim that their interpretations of scripture
are the one-and-only truth.
The impact of the global market on reproductive health: assessment
and strategies. This project would show how market capitalism functions
as a quasi-religion: assigning moral values/ priorities that affect
attitudes toward sexuality and reproductive health policy.During
these busy six years, we have also gotten official consultative status
at the UN, addressed the General Assembly, attended UN conferences in
Cairo, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Beijing, The Hague, and New York, and we
have interacted with international NGOs around the world.All
this we have done with a part-time president and one staff person —
and with the extraordinary and generous participation of our international
collegium of close to 100 scholars.
CONSULTATION MISSION STATEMENT
The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive
Health, and Ethics is an international network of progressive feminist
religious scholars and leaders who seek out the positive, renewable
moral energies of their faith traditions to direct them to the interrelated
issues of population, reproductive health, consumption/ecology, and
the empowerment of women. It accomplishes this by participating in international
and governmental forums, by convening small symposia of theologians
and religious ethicists, and by publishing both scholarly and popular
Radhika Balakrishnan, Marymount Manhattan College
Riffat Hassan, University of Louisville
Benjamin Hubbard, University of California - Fullerton
Paul F. Knitter, Xavier University
Daniel C. Maguire, Marquette University
Elmira Nazombe, Center for Women’s Global Leadership
Chun-fang Yu, Rutgers University
Assistant to the President: Mary Ewens
Newsletter Editor: Judith Neuman
©2000 Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive
Health and Ethics
2823 North Summit, Milwaukee, WI 53211
Phone: 414/962-3166 Fax: 414/962-9248
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Attack on Asghar Ali Engineer, A Scholar of the Consultation
Participating scholar, Asghar Ali Engineer, was attacked last Februay,
reportedly by orthodox members of the Bohra priesthood. The violence
against Asghar Ali, a Bohra reformist, was prompted by views he expressed
at a recent meeting in Bhopal.
On the afternoon of February 13, Asghar
Ali Engineer, the internationally renowned Islamic scholar, human rights
activist, ardent champion of inter-faith dialogue and understanding,
and Bohra reformist, was physically assaulted at the Mumbai (Bombay)
airport by the followers of Syedna, the chief of the Bohra priesthood.
Badly bruised and bleeding, Asghar Ali was admitted to a nearby hospital
for treatment and observation. Three suspects have been detained by
Asghar Ali has dedicated his life to
liberating his community, the Bohras — a small Islamic sect, whose members
are generally engaged in trade and business and mostly found in Gujarat
and Maharashtra. Consequently, he has been socially ostracized and blackmailed
by members of the reigning priesthood. He has also been physically assaulted
both in India and abroad.
This time, he was on his way back from
Bhopal. His plane was scheduled to stop over at Indore. There, the aircraft
was detained for more than an hour to enable Syedna and a dozen or so
followers to board the plane. Annoyed, the stranded passengers protested.
Asghar joined in. Syedna and his followers singled out Asghar Ali, brutally
attacking him at the departure lounge of the airport.
The vindictiveness of the act is clear.
Later that day, his office and residence were ransacked by a gang owing
allegiance to Syedna. The destruction was not the result of any momentary
pique, but of long-standing animosity and insecurity. The priesthood
and their cronies fear losing their control over the community and its
The members of the EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai, strongly
condemned the attack and called upon the Maharashtra government to promptly
bring the culprits and their instigators to justice — and to provide
Asghar Ali with proper security. In addition, the group took the opportunity
to draw attention to the need to trim the irrational powers of the Bohra
priesthood and its near-total control over the lives of the community
members. The attack against Asghar Ali only underscored the urgency
of this matter.
Because Asghar Ali’s office and equipment have been
destroyed, donations to this gentle reformer and advocate for women’s
rights would be most helpful. Please send your contributions to —
Asghar Ali Engineer
Institute for Islamic Studies
9/B 1st Floor, Himalaya Apts.
6th Road, Santacruz (East),
Bombay 400 055.
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Women Win Right To Divorce
On March 1, 2000, Egypt joined Tunisia in making divorce
an equal opportunity option: an escape route for women trapped by the
many problems brought on by an unhappy marriage. The new law enables
women to divorce their husbands — with or without their husband’s agreement.
Furthermore, women can now turn to the Egyptian government to garnish
their husband’s wages if the husband fails to pay a court-ordered allowance.
If the husband cannot meet his financial obligation, or if he disappears,
ex-wives will be able to draw from a special state bank to support their
When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak proposed the new law late last
year, conservative lawmakers fiercely disputed the changes, characterizing
women as too impulsive and light-minded to be trusted with no-fault
Moderate Muslim clerics,
women’s advocates, civil court judges, and divorce lawyers allied themselves
to endorse the reforms. They launched a public relations campaign that
positioned the new law as a modern interpretation of the equal rights
accorded to women by Islam. The strategy worked.
Egypt’s new law comes with a price. To garner the support of leading
Muslim authorities, the reformers had to adopt a condition that grows
out of Islamic religious history. The Prophet Muhammad once allowed
a woman to leave her husband, with the stipulation that she return the
garden the husband had given her when they married. According to the
new law, today’s wife who files for divorce over the objections of her
husband must return any money or property that her husband gave her
at the time of their marriage. Yet by grounding the reforms within a
religious context, the pro-divorce rights advocates put the reform in
a more advantageous light, gaining the support of the Muslim authorities.
In the past, a Muslim man could effortlessly get a divorce. A woman,
however, had to prove to a court that her husband fit into a category
deemed to be acceptable grounds for divorce: wife-beater, drug addict,
sterile, or non-supporting spouse. Yet although these criteria were
often established in court, many judges still discounted the complaints.
Even if a judge granted the woman a divorce, the case could continue
indefinitely: husbands could repeatedly appeal the judge’s decision.
One judge said that he saw many cases linger in his court for 12-15
years without resolution. Egypt’s women filed 1.2 million divorce cases
a year, yet only about 71,000 divorces were granted.
One assistant justice minister who crafted the new family law called it
a “necessary and overdue shock” that will ripple through Egyptian society.
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the Activities of Our Participating Scholars
Alwi Shihab has been appointed Foreign Minister of Indonesia under
the new government led by Muslim cleric, Gus Dur. (See Two
of our Scholars in Jakarta)
Julia Ching is spending the spring term at the National University
of Singapore as a Distinguished Visitor. When
she leaves the National University, she will attend a conference on
Global Ethics in Hainan Island, then go on to spend time
at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as an external examiner.
Julia has been writing a bilingual column on world politics
and other human rights-related issues for Canada’s Chinese language
paper, Ming Pao.
spent a week last November
at the University of Alberta in Edmonton giving 11 lectures and talks.
In January, he and Harold Coward and Coward Brunk presented a panel
discussion on Ethics and Genetic Engineering: The Technological Imperative
and the Idea of Moral Limits at the 8th East-West Philosophers’
Conference at the University of Hawaii-Honolulu’s East-West Center.
David has also won the Streng Book Award for his volume, Lack and Transcendence:
The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and
Buddhism. As David says, “The work talks about how a modern interpretation of Buddhism
can be developed quite easily in a Christian direction: the emptying
and transformation that we all need to experience if we are to overcome
our greed, ill-will, and delusion – and realize that not I, but Christ,
liveth in me.” Congratulations, David.
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Sane Position on Abortion ....
Taken from Abortion in Good Faith, A Reformed Approach to Reproductive Options
by Gloria H. Albrecht, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of Religious
Studies, University of Detroit Mercy. Gloria was ordained in 1983 in
the Presbytery of Baltimore.
…most abortions, globally, are caused by conditions of
social and economic distress. It is symptomatic of our residual devaluing
of women’s lives and work that such abortions not narrowly required
by immediate health reasons are often called “elective.” In the U.S.,
the highest abortion rates are among young women (18-19 years old) and
among poor women. In the U.S. and globally, nonuse of birth control
methods is related to youth, poverty, lack of education, and lack of
access to health care providers.
In other words, we are being challenged to see not only the suffering of women
who are overtly and physically violated by some men, but to see the
suffering of women and their children who are systematically violated
by economic and social injustices in which we may be complicit. Denying
these women access to the full range of reproductive options serves
only to exacerbate the injustices they suffer. To eliminate women’s
need for safe and legal abortions will require, as the Expacio de
Mujeres Cristianas pointed out, the total transformation of our
societies and institutions. It requires the elimination of poverty,
of sex-segregated work, of sex-based wage disparities, of the exploitation
of women’s domestic and productive labor…. It requires a commitment
to women’s social and material well-being.
40 million people die every year from hunger and related diseases
— equivalent to 300 Jumbo jet crashes every day — with half
of the passengers being children.
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A Brief, Liberal, Catholic
Defense of Abortion, by
Daniel A. Dombrowski and Robert Deltete, University of Illinois Press.
The title of this book
tells it all. First of all, it is brief (129 pages plus notes) and this
is a come-on, but it builds a tightly-knit argument for a thoroughly
pro-choice and thoroughly Roman Catholic view on abortion. The book
supports the majority of Catholics who hold that abortion can be morally
justified. The authors, professors at Seattle University, a Jesuit institution,
even argue that the pro-choice Catholic view on abortion — which co-exists
alongside a no-choice view — is actually more compatible with Catholic
The authors argue that the no-choice view is justified neither by modern
embryology nor by ancient church teachings. They combine up-to-date
information on fetal development with a competent grasp of the works
of the church’s early teachings. They show that abortion was originally
condemned by the church on the grounds of perversity, since it nullified
the only permissible reason for sexual relations: procreation. This
neurotic view of sexuality [denies that any] circumstance ever justifies
abortion. In view of [this weaker argument], modern no-choicers abandoned
it, shifting to the “ontological argument” that human personhood begins
at the moment of conception. This, however, is another wobbly plank
on which to stand a sweeping and absolute no-choice position.
The authors show that this idea of person-at-conception (“immediate
hominization”) stems from two seventeenth-century scientific misconceptions
— preformationism and the homunculus. Both have since been thoroughly
discredited. Rosemary Radford Ruether says that, in her view, this book
“definitely shows that the current teaching of the Roman Catholic Church
— that all abortion is murder from the first moment of conception —
is not in accord with Catholic tradition over more than eighteen centuries.
In fact, a careful study of the Catholic tradition of such major theologians
as Thomas Aquinas, in the context of modern embryology, supports the
pro-choice position in the first two trimesters.” Continued on next
for a Small Planet, New Horizons
on Population, Consumption, and Ecology by Daniel C. Maguire and Larry L. Rasmussen. Introduction
by Rosemary Radford Ruether.
This book offers an original assessment of the crisis caused by the combined
impact of overpopulation, overconsumption, and economic and political
injustice. It summons religious scholarship into urgent dialogue with
the other disciplines and with the world’s policymakers. The authors
seek a new understanding of religion and its power since, for good or
for ill, the world’s religions will be players in the crises relating
to population and the threat of eco-cide. Two-thirds of the world’s
people affiliate with these religions, and the other third cannot escape
the influence of these symbol-filled cultural powerhouses.
of a New Earth, Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption, and
Coward and Daniel C. Maguire, editors.
One of the most significant topics of our time is the current eco-crisis
of overpopulation, overconsumption (often called “affluenza”), and environmental
degradation. In Visions of a New Earth, eight world religion
scholars and two creative international economists address these linked
problems by bringing religious perspective into conversation with economics.
They conclude that religion and other cultural forces must be mobilized
to force humankind toward an epochal birthing of bio-reverence. Traditions
discussed include Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism,
[as well as] Chinese, Native American, and African religions.
“Each scholar addresses
the issues directly and in a penetrating way. Thus, although they represent
a wide range of backgrounds, there is a unity of approach. The quality
of reflection and writing are notable; there are good insights in virtually
every chapter, more than enough to stimulate fresh thinking. This book
successfully makes the point that the voice of religion must be heard
in these crucial discussions that will determine our planet’s future.”
— Roland E. Miller, Luther Seminary
“This is a very important
book that should be required reading for anyone involved in studying
the global economy, comparative perspectives in government policies,
and any course dealing with the relationship between economy, ecology,
and ethics. The informed general public would also find it useful.”
— Robert M Garvin, University at Albany, State University of New
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from the books already published, The Consultation is pregnant with
much more. As the research phase of our first several projects move
toward completion, more books are on the way. Fortress Press has agreed
to put out the popular volume that follows the university press scholarly
version of each project. Project One produced the Visions of a
New Earth from SUNY Press. The popular volume in press at Fortress
is entitled, Sacred Energies: When the Religions of
the World Address the Problems of the Planet. Dan Maguire authored
this volume. It is expected in the Fall of 2000. The
Good Sex project which — will keep the same name in book
form — is currently at Rutgers University Press. The book brings women's
religious wisdom to the subject of sexuality. The popular volume is
under contract with Fortress. Mary Hunt and Patti Jung are the authors.
What Men Owe to Women
is due out
at the end of the year from SUNY Press, and John Raines is under contract
with Fortress for the popular volume.Several university presses have
expressed interest in our project, The Right to Family Planning,
Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions. The project
will go to press at the end of this summer.
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By Daniel C. Maguire
The question seems silly. What sex is would seem one of the most obvious things
in the world.
And it is true that everyone who has passed through puberty has a pretty
good idea of what sex is. Ask a hippy sort of person what sex is and
you’ll get something like this: Sex is one of the ‘cool’ things you
can do...like you can take a walk, have a beer, play a little cribbage,
have a little sex. So that is, indeed, one version of what sex is.
This answer from our hippy witness gave more than one version of what
sex is; it also gave a complete sexual ethic. In this ethic, sex is
fun, and if the other person is willing, hey, where’s the problem?
So in this view, only rape or harassment would be wrong. Otherwise,
go for it. That certainly has the merit of simplicity. But sex,
special and mysterious delight that it is, is not that simple. Very
little in life is that simple.
For our next witness, we could call in a prominent theologian. (I have
one in mind.) He also knows what sex is. His answer: Sex is language.
Now that is more promising — and subtler. But what, according to this
witness, is sexual language saying? His answer: When persons have
sex together, they are saying that they are permanently and exclusively
bonded, i.e. married — and that they are heterosexual. In this ethic,
the sex act is marital, and if you are not married, it is wrong. The
only sex that is moral is that of heterosexually married persons. Like
the answer of our hippy witness, that also has the merit of simplicity.
But, again, sex is not that simple.
At this point, my readers might say: Okay, smart man, tell us what
it is. I’ll try.
Sex for humans, like everything for humans, is more than it appears
to be. Sex, I submit, is a natural liturgy. So what in
the world is a natural liturgy? We should know because we are naturally
liturgical animals. A liturgy consists of symbols, and we use symbols
all the time. From hand shakes to bows and waves, to nose-rubbing, kisses,
and hugs, we speak not just in words, but also in symbols. Symbols say
more than words can. When a bunch of symbols are combined into a kind
of unity, they make up a liturgy. Some liturgies are contrived, made
up, and they vary from place to place. Irish weddings and Nigerian
weddings are both liturgies, as are inaugurations of presidents and
popes, but they are made up, and hence, they vary from place to place.
Natural liturgies don’t vary. They are inborn. Some of the externals
will vary, but in substance, they are intrinsic to our humanity. Before
showing how sex is a natural liturgy, I’ll illustrate the point by describing
another liturgy. For humans, a meal is a natural liturgy. I’m not talking
about someone grabbing a bite on the run. Think instead of a meal where
you are having guests over, where you are going to take the time to
have a real meal.
There are two aspects
to this event: one is physical (there better be food there) and the
other one is symbolic. And guess what. The symbolic part of this natural
liturgy is more important than the food. Food is not the main show.
You don’t invite people because they are low on proteins and carbohydrates.
You invite them to show love. And you leap right into symbols. Crystal,
silverware, precious china, candles, music, changed lighting. You would
almost think you were setting up an altar. (It’s not surprising that
many religions use meals as central liturgies. The meal is already a
liturgy; they simply add religious tones to it.) Even the food is not
served in a vat or given intravenously. It has to be garnished in lovely
symbols and elegantly presented. The meal liturgy symbolizes love and
respect. (The proof of that is evident: if you had to dine that way
with someone you despised, your digestion would rebel, and you’d be
belching all night. Love and joy are necessary, even for digestion.)
Back to the natural liturgy called sex. Like a meal, sex involves both
physical realities and powerful symbolism. Though one or another encounter
may not show it, sex is powerful. It really does “make love” and you
do get “involved.” In fact, the physical facts of sex symbolize
what sex tends to do psychologically. There is not just physical
nakedness; there is emotional nakedness. We trust our partner with full
exposure of our passions and needs. We shed our emotional clothes and
cosmetics and present ourselves as we are. Sex is a huge act of trust.
Physically, sex involves in various ways penetration, envelopment,
and openness; this symbolizes the emotional interweaving that occurs
in sexually charged friendship. The lover may remain only an experience,
but s/he tends to become a way of life. Sex bonds, and bonds powerfully.
The immature may not be able to cope with its power. The power of sex
shows in the intimacy-hopes it spawns. When these tender hopes are frustrated
or betrayed, we understand why romance produces the blues — songs and
poems of broken hearts, and literary tragedies. Moonlight and roses
often end in tears.
On top of that, sex is biologically intimate. Heterosexual sex in the
fertile young wants to make babies so much that contraceptive technology
is hard-pressed to stop it. In all sex, we share intimate fluids.
In having sex with one person, we are sharing some of the biology of
those with whom s/he has had sex. We may have just joined a network.
Sexually transmitted disease (STD’s) is a large category in medicine.
So sex is not like sharing a beer, taking a walk, or playing
cribbage together. Emotionally and physically, it is much more serious.
It is fun, but it is serious fun. When all is right, there may be no
greater delight on earth. And all is right when there is honesty,
maturity, appropriate protection, respect for everything that
is important to your partner, and when no injustice is done to your
partner or anyone else. Here’s a case where good morals and great
fun can perfectly coincide!
Daniel C. Maguire is President of The Religious Consultation
on Population, Reproductive Health, and Ethics, as well as Professor
of Ethics, Marquette University. His latest book: Ethics for A Small
Planet, (SUNY Press).
Sex is a natural liturgy ...
instrinsic to humanity....
[it] involves both physical realities
and powerful symbolism.
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to pursue career as writing/research consultant
Jamakaya, our able administrator
for three years, left the Consultation at the end of 1999. An award-winning
writer and historian here in Milwaukee, she is devoting her energies
to establishing her own consulting business, Clarity Writing &
Research. Jamakaya is now in the process of building a list of clients
and would be most happy to serve you from her home office in Milwaukee.
While with us, she launched and edited this newsletter, helped with
writing grants, researched grant opportunities,
in women’s issues and progressive politics coupled with her master’s
degree in history made her a good match for the Consultation. As she
says: “While working here, I especially enjoyed meeting the men and
women of different cultures and religions who so devotedly pursue solutions
to serious issues. I want you all to know how much I have appreciated
the friends and conversations we have had over the years.” You can contact
Jamakaya at (414) 276-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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of Participating Scholars
Tavivat Puntarigviv has been re-elected Chair of the Comparative Religion
graduate program at Mahidol University, a term that extends
from January 2000 to January 2002. Tavi also held this position from
1995-1997. He sees many possibilities for cooperation among colleagues
and institutions. Currently, he is trying to establish an academic link
between the programs at Mahidol and the Religion Department at Temple
Parichart Suwanbubbha attended an international seminar
sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Division of the International Centre for Dialogue Among Civilisations.
Religion and Social Change: Challenges and Prospects for Peace
was held at the Institute for Political and International Studies in
Tehran, The Islamic Republic of Iran. Parichart presented a paper entitled,
Buddhist Perspectives on Peace in Thai Society: A Case Study of the
God’s Army Terrorist Seizure of Ratchaburi Hospital, etc.
From August 5-12, Parichart is presenting a paper at the 6th
International Conference of the Association for Buddhist-Christian Studies
in Tacoma, Washington. Also in August, she will give a lecture on
Thai Buddhist-Christian Understanding at various Christian churches,
Buddhist temples, and Jewish synagogues in the greater Seattle area.
The lecture series has been organized by the Interfaith Committee
of the Council of Churches. October 28-31, She will deliver
a paper at the meeting on Christian and Buddhist Resources for Promoting
Peace and Wholeness in Human Communities, a conference organized
by the LWF Study Group Christian-Buddhist Dialogue at Katmandu,
Consultation Staff, Dan
Maguire and Mary Ewens, are attending an executive seminar
sponsored by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Dan and Mary will
be trained to use the foundation’s new procedures for evaluating funded
Consultation President, and Jose
Barzelatto of the Consultation's Advisory Board have been
named consultants to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.
The project: researching the role of religion and ethics in population
and reproductive health policies.
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News: An Open Letter to General Musharraf from Dr. Riffat Hassan
Riffat Hassan, chair of the Consultation’s Board of Directors, recently
wrote an open letter to General Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan,
concerning the abuse of women through so-called “honor killings” among
other ways. The letter was published on the front page of Pakistan
Today, Friday, March 17, 2000. The Los Angeles-based newspaper is
the largest newspaper serving the Pakistani-American community in the
US. The letter may be seen in its entirety at WWW/PAKTODAY.COM (See
FIRST PAGE). Riffat’s letter has gotten wide international attention.
We include a very brief edited excerpt here.
“Since Pakistan is overwhelmingly a
Muslim country and — in fact — is the only country in the world which
was created in the name of Islam, it is important to place women-related
issues in Pakistan in the larger context of Muslim history and culture.
A brief review of the latter brings to light many areas in which — Qur’anic
teaching notwithstanding — women continued to be subjected to diverse
forms of oppression and injustice, often in the name of Islam, and,
what is far worse, in the name of a just, merciful and compassionate
God. While the Qur’an, because of its protective attitude toward all
downtrodden and oppressed classes of people, appears to be weighted
in many ways in favor of women, many of its women-related teachings
have been used in male-dominated Muslim societies against, rather than
for, women. Muslim societies, in general, appear to be far more concerned
with trying to control women’s bodies and sexuality than with their
human rights. Many Muslims when they speak of human rights either do
not speak of women’s rights at all, or are mainly concerned with how
a woman’s chastity may be protected. (They are apparently not
very worried about protecting men’s chastity.)"
* * * *
In an apparent reaction
to Riffat’s letter, the government of Pakistan decided in principal
to treat honor killing as a crime and bring an end to this gruesome
tradition. Observers point out that Riffat’s letter has prompted other
changes as well. Included in the new package on human rights, the administration
an amendment to the Ehtesab Act, adding a separate chapter dealing with
complaints of maladministration and problems relating to women. A separate
office of Mohtasib will also be created for women.
to set up Burn Units at district level. Existing facilities in major
hospitals will also be expanded. [In point of fact, Riffat has been
trying to raise funds for just such facilities. Although she had sought
funds from APPNA (Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America),
she was refused.]
to establish a commission on human rights. Findings of the inquiry commission
on women would be implemented.
to confirm and, if needed, amend the law concerning children of mixed
heritage. Children born to women holding Pakistani passports but married
to foreign citizens can also be entitled to Pakistani citizenship —
in the same manner as children born to Pakistani men married to foreign
As a result of Riffat’s letter, the offices of Pakistan
Today were inundated with comments and questions. Supporting the
contents of the letter, Amnesty International has asked for permission
to include some portions of the letter in their publications
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Four New Participating Scholars
We are pleased to announce that four new scholars have joined
our ranks. Their backgrounds are as diverse as they are impressive.
Each brings a distinct experience to the Consultation, enriching the
many perspectives we enjoy.
Ananda W. P. Guruge. Dean
of Academic Affairs and Director of the International Academy of Buddhism,
Hsi Lai University, Los Angeles, California. Born
in Galle, Sri Lanka, Ananda possesses impressive credentials in government,
academics, and national and international civil service. He has been
a high-ranking diplomat with a distinguished career in Sri Lankan government
senior officer of the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service for 15 years,
Ananda also played a lead role in establishing the country’s second
university, where he held the Chair of Sanskrit and Linguistics, in
addition to being the Administrative Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor.
of UNESCO from 1968 with postings in Paris, New Delhi, and Bangkok;
Ananda also directed UNESCO”s Inter-Agency Cooperative Programs with
UNICEF and the World Food Programme. In 1985, the government of Sri
Lanka appointed Ananda Ambassador, the Permanent Delegate of Sri Lanka
July 1989, he also acted as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
in France with non-resident accreditation to Spain and Algeria. During
this time, he chaired many impressive committees, such as the Asia-Pacific
Group of Permanent Delegations.
1992-94, he was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
Sri Lanka in the US with non-resident accreditation to Mexico. He also
acted as a visiting professor in the Department of Religion at Northwestern
University during 1994-95.
1996, as the Senior Special Adviser to the Director General of UNESCO
in the Culture of Peace Programme, Ananda has resumed an active academic
career. He has served as a visiting professor of Buddhism and Hinduism
at California State University at Fullerton’s Buddhist Studies in Los
Angeles. He has worked at Hsi Lai University as Director of Religious
Studies —where he is now Dean of Academic Affairs and the Director of
the International Academy of Buddhism. He also regularly speaks in the
US and abroad on Buddhism, Asian History, and Culture of Peace.
renowned leader in the international Buddhist movement, Ananda has been
the Patron of the European Buddhist Union and Vice President of the
World Fellowship of Buddhists since 1988.
his national and international services, he has been awarded several
Sri Lankan national honors in addition to UNESCO’s Silver Medal and
Human Rights Medal — as well as the U Thant Peace Award.
has authored 40 books and 125 articles on Oriental literature, history
and culture, Buddhism, Sri Lankan, and Indian history.
Debra W. Haffner, President/Executive Director, Sexuality Information and Education Council
of the United States. Debra has a long history of working in the area of adolescence
and sexuality: abstinence, AIDS, childbearing, education, family planning,
health, pregnancy, and reproductive issues. She earned her master’s
degree in Public Health from Yale University School of Medicine.
She also attended Yale’s Divinity School.
Debra was the Director of Information and Education
at the Center for Population Options from 1985-1988. The previous
four years, she worked as Director of Community Services and Public
Relations for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.
She has authored three books, one entitled, From Diapers to Dating: A Parent’s
Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children. She has also written
fifteen monographs, and more than sixty articles and numerous public
education materials for parents, adolescents, and young adults. Her
writings focus on sexuality education. A sampling of titles of her shorter
works includes A Time to Speak: Faith Communities and Sexuality Education
! But Does it Work? Improving Evaluations of Sexuality
Education Programs !
AIDS and Adolescents: The Time for Prevention Is Now !
Teaching our Teachers to Teach, Gender Stereotypes in Sexuality Education
Toward a New Paradigm on Adolescent Sexual Health.
Debra has won many awards for her work. Here are highlights from the last decade:
The Family Planning Association of Maine’s Margaret Vaughn Award,
2000 ! Dr. Richard J. Cross Award, Robert Wood Johnson
Medical School, 1999 ! Gallagher
Lecturer, Society of Adolescent Medicine, 1997 ! Who’s Who in the World, 1994, 1995 ! Who’s Who in American Women, 1993-1995 ! Who’s Who in Education, 1993-1996 ! Who’s Who in the East, 1992 ! Distinguished Service Award, NFPHRA, 1990.
M ichelene E. Pesantubbee, Assistant
Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Colorado.
A scholar in the study of Native
Americans, Michelene received her doctorate from the University of California,
Santa Barbara. (Dissertation: The Role of Choctaw Churches in the
Revitalization of Choctaw Culture and Identity. Master’s thesis:
When the Earth Shakes: the Cherokee Prophecies of 1811-1812.)
Michelene has taught courses in Native
American Religious Traditions, Contemporary American Indian Issues,
and Cultural Foundations of Education. She has presented papers on topics
such as Re-Imagining Choctaw Women: Protestant or Choctaw ! Redrawing the Boundaries: Tradition and Change Among Native Christians ! Transforming the Choctaw Christian Experience: Appropriation or Indigenization.
She has recently completed “From Vision to Violence: The Wounded Knee
Massacre,” a chapter in Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence,
by Syracuse University Press. She expects to complete her book,
Ohoy Osh Chisba: The She is an active member in professional
organizations, such as Society of the Study of Native American Religious
Traditions and American Academy of Religion. She has served
as a panelist and spoken at both societies’ annual meetings and conferences
as well the University of Georgia’s Department of Religion and the Humanities
Lloyd H. Steffen, University Chaplain and Professor, Religion Studies, Lehigh University.
An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, Lloyd has studied at Andover
Newton Theological School where he earned a master’s degree in Systematic
Theology ! at The Divinity School at Yale University where
he earned a master’s degree in Divinity ! at Brown University where he received his doctorate
in Religious Studies.
In 1999, Lloyd was invited
to be the US Observer and to participate in the European University
Chaplain’s Conference in Rome.
He has been recognized
for his dedicated leadership and commitment to Women’s Reproductive
Freedom and Health by the President’s Office of the United Church of
An NEH participant in
the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center (Japanese Culture and Civilization,)
he worked on the project, Japanese Social Ethics, with a focus
on the topics of abortion and the death penalty.
He also participated
in the NEH Summer Institute at Harvard University, where he taught a
comparative course: Exploring Thematic Approaches in the Study of
Lloyd has published an important volume, Abortion:
A Reader. In it, he brings together the responsible views from all
sides of this critical debate.
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of our Scholars in Jakarta
Alwi Shihab has recently been appointed Foreign Minister in the
new Indonesian government under new President Abdurrahman Wahid, known
as Gus Dur.
At this same time, John
Raines has been appointed a Fulbright Senior Scholar based
in Jakarta, for the spring semester, 2000. His tasks are twofold:
1) To work with local scholars
of religion to establish a master’s degree program in Comparative
Religious Thought, located at the University of Indonesia.
2) To teach a graduate seminar
at Jakarta’s Institute of Islamic Studies. This four-year college
and graduate program (that confers doctorates) is training the next
generation of Islamic religious teachers.
Degree in Comparative Religious Thought
Some background. This
will be the first such program in Indonesia, a country that requires
the study of religion of all students from the elementary school
through the university. Each year, millions of students study
religion, and hundreds of thousands of teachers teach religion. However,
in the past, students studied only their own religion — largely to find
out why their religion is “right” — and by implication — why other religions
are, if not “wrong,” at least “less right.” Until now, teachers of religion
have studied only their own religion.
Indonesia is the world largest Islamic nation
— 90% of the population is Muslim. And with a total of some 210 million
people, Indonesia accounts for more Muslims than the entire Middle East.
The country has a new government, headed by a Muslim cleric,
Gus Dur (Abdurrahman Wahid), who has deeply democratic instincts. He
is actively pursuing inter-religious tolerance and dialogue, and he
is in favor of progressive policies both on the political and economic
fronts. In short, John says, “We now have in Jakarta a Muslim government
leader who can present to the world — especially to North America —
a whole new face: an image of richness, tolerance, and passion for social
justice embedded in Islamic culture. His influence within the larger
Islamic nations is very important as well.”
Seminar at Institute of Islamic Studies
The seminar is called Religion and the Social Sciences:
Domination, Resistance, and Reconciliation. John will be modeling
the way to study religion on a descriptive rather than a dogmatic basis
— a concept that lies at the heart of the master’s program he is working
Alwi Shihab, the newly appointed Foreign Minister,
friend and former student of John’s at Temple Univeristy, has told John
that establishing the new program in Comparative Religions is now an
official policy of the government. John feels privileged to be in the
country at such an exciting time.
According to John, Indonesia is
a country remaking itself after 45 years of autocratic rule. He is sending
us long emails describing what he calls the endgame of an intricate
chess match between the military and the cronies of former President
Soeharto on one side and the newly elected government (with a woman
vice president), the IMF, and the UN on the other. It is a story of
international intrigue with moves and countermoves — both religious
“We haven’t seen anything this significant in the US since 1776,”
writes John. If you’re interested in reading John’s letters, contact
the Consultation, and we will forward John’s email to you.
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Cairo was really about
The ICPD Programme of Action justifies
its focus on women by stating quite unequivocally that “[advancing gender
equality and equity and the empowerment of women, and the elimination
of all kinds of violence again women, and ensuring women’s ability to
control their own fertility, are cornerstones of population and development-related
It also declares that “[t]he empowerment
and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social,
economic, and health status is a highly important end in itself”
(UN, 1995a: Para.4.1)
Three Words of Iroquois Condolence
by Christopher Jocks
At last November’s meetings of the American Academy of Religion,
the group studying What Men Owe Women, held a session to present
some of our findings. Dan Maguire has asked me to summarize a part of
my presentation. As I looked out at the audience, I couldn't help thinking
about the long history of violence, pain, and separation that constitutes
gender relations in most of the world. I saw each man and woman in that
room as co-inheritors of that awful history.
I study the Longhouse tradition of the Iroquois people, indigenous
to northeastern North America. This tradition has a formal way of bringing
– or beginning to bring – healing to this kind of individual and collective
pain. It begins with a story. A man is terribly afflicted: one by one,
each of his seven beloved daughters meets an untimely death. Consumed
with grief, he can no longer tolerate human company, and so he wanders
alone in the forest.
One day, not knowing quite why he is doing it, he gathers and strings
together three hollow twigs. He says, "If I met anyone as burdened
with grief as I am, with these I would bring the person healing. With
this one, I would clear the obstruction from their eyes, wiping their
tears with the softest deerskin, so that once again they could see life
thriving and continuing around them. With this next one, I would clear
the obstruction from their ears, the buzzing of their own distraction,
so that they could once again hear the voices — of laughter as well
as of sorrow — of those who yet live around them. With this last one,
as if with pure spring water, I would clear the obstruction from their
throat, the constriction of pain, so that they could clearly speak and
express their love once again."
These "three words," in the Iroquois idiom, came to form
the core of a ceremony known in English as Condolence, a regular
part of Iroquois spiritual and political life for as long as anyone
can remember. It seemed fitting that day last November to recite a version
of these words. In this tradition, acknowledging grief, harm, disturbed
relations, as well as the ceremonial healing and restoration of those
relations must always come first — before we join our minds to solve
The story reminds us that political, social, and historical processes
reach fruition in individual human experiences that must be acknowledged.
For this reason, I especially appreciate that each member of our group
was allowed — in fact, was mandated — to bring his/her personal experience
of suffering, loss, or alienation, to our deliberations on What Men
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