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The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health & Ethics

Religious Consultation Report

News & Views from
The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics

October, 1999


Page One: World Community Observes Population Milestone, "Day of Six Billion"
Article 2: Religious Consultation News
Article 3: Youth and the Spiritual Dimension to Addressing Population Growth
Article 4: The Guiding Principles of Jewish Reproductive Ethics
Article 5: Book on Women and Population Offers Important Analysis
Article 6: Movers and Shakers: Tracking the Activities of Our Participating Scholars

Page One

World Community Observes Population Milestone, "Day of Six Billion"

October 12, 1999 marked the date the six billionth human was born on earth. This population milestone represents twice the number of people who inhabited the planet in 1960. United Nations projections indicate that world population could rise to 9 billion or more by 2050.

The United Nations called for the international observance of the "Day of Six Billion," encouraging individuals to contemplate the implications of population growth and urging governments and other institutions to contribute to ongoing efforts to alleviate the sex discrimination, educational and economic inequities and lack of health services that have helped fuel the historic increase.

The number of people on earth is not the whole story. The real story is improving the quality of life of every one of the 6 billion and ensuring a healthy future for our children and grandchildren.

Some interesting thoughts to ponder:

  • History's largest generation of young people -- 1.07 billion -- between the ages of 15 and 24 currently walks the earth. The reproductive choices these young people make will determine the planet's future. Better access to education, jobs, and family planning services will encourage healthy, life-sustaining choices.

  • More than half the world's population is female. But many women and girls lack the right to decide their own futures and are denied the rights to education, employment and health care. Statistics show that the more education a girl receives, the more likely she is to postpone pregnancy and to have fewer but healthier children.

  • The number of cities with more than one million people rose from 111 in 1960 to 280 in 1995, two thirds of them in developing countries; by 2010, the number of such cities in the developing world will rise to 368.

In 1994, 179 nations of the world came together for the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. They agreed on a Programme of Action that includes these central goals:

  • Improving and expanding the full range of family planning and reproductive health care programs worldwide, ensuring that reproductive health services are available to all who need them;

  • Reducing infant, child and maternal mortality rates dramatically through the wider provision of basic health care services, especially in developing countries;

  • Increasing educational and economic opportunities for girls and women to assist in their self-determination; of the 960 million illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women, and in poor countries, every additional year of a woman's schooling is associated with a 5-10% decline in infant mortality;

  • Ending practices such as female genital mutilation and other forms of violence and coercion against women;

  • Investing $17 billion per year in global population and sustainable development programs, two-thirds of that from the developing nations themselves, one-third from the developed world.

A five-year review of the ICPD's Programme of Action was debated at the United Nations this past summer. Ultimately, the General Assembly reiterated its support for the Programme of Action, established new deadlines to meet its ambitious goals and appealed for the funds necessary, especially from the U.S., to implement the programme.

The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics was founded at the time of the Cairo conference in the belief that the voices of progressive, feminist leaders of religious faiths can play a critical role in the ongoing debates over population, women's empowerment and sustainable development.

Religious Consultation scholars have participated in United Nations' and other national and international conferences. They have initiated innovative projects like New Theology on Population, Consumption and Theology, What Men Owe to Women, Women's Religious Wisdom on Sexuality, and The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions and are disseminating the results of their studies. This newsletter tells you more about our work. To contact us:

Phone: 414/962-3166

Fax: 414/962-9248

Email: consultation@igc.org
Web: http://www.consultation.org/consultation

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Religious Consultation News

"Visions of a New Earth" Published by SUNY Press

Visions of a New Earth: Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption and Ecology is being published by the State University of New York Press in November. The volume is a collection of essays by Religious Consultation scholars who participated in the Consultation's first project," New Theology on Population, Consumption and Ecology." It is edited by Harold Coward and Daniel C. Maguire.

The "New Theology" project, funded in part by the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine The. MacArthur Foundation, brought together nine scholars of the world's religions to address the linked issues of population, consumption and ecology from their respective religious traditions. The book argues that religious beliefs and moral values must play a critical role in moving humanity toward greater bio-reverence, a greater respect for and care of our planet.

Among the essays in Visions of a New Earth are: "The Religion of the Market" by David R. Loy; "Self as Individual and Collective: Ethical Implications" by Harold Coward; "New Theology on Population, Consumption and Ecology from the Catholic Perspective" by Alberto Munera; "The Lost Fragrance: Protestantism and the Nature of What Matters" by Catherine Keller; and "The Promises of Exiles: A Jewish Theology of Responsibility" by Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman.

Also included are: "'One Tree is Equal to Ten Sons': Hindu Responses to the Problems of Ecology, Population and Consumption" by Vasudha Narayanan; "An Islamic Response to the Manifold Ecological Crisis: Issues of Justice" by Nawal H. Ammar; "Toward a Buddhist Environmental Ethic" by Rita M. Gross; "Chinese Religions on Population, Consumption and Ecology" by Chun-fang Yü; "African Religions and the Global Issue of Population, Consumption and Ecology" by Jacob K. Olupona; and "Sustainability and the Global Economy" by economist David C. Korten.

The book's introduction is by Daniel C. Maguire, President of the Religious Consultation. The final chapter, "An Interreligious Common Front" is by Paul F. Knitter.

Visions of a New Earth is 248 pages. The paperback edition is $17.95 + postage. To order a copy, call SUNY Press at 800-666-2211 or visit their web site at <http://www.sunypress.edu>.

"Right to Family Planning" Group Holds First Consultation

"Thanks to the generosity of the Packard Foundation, we have an opportunity to change international discourse on the subject of family planning, especially regarding the tortured issue of abortion." These words of greeting by Religious Consultation President Daniel Maguire opened the first meeting of the Consultation's project on "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions" in Philadelphia this past July.

"The conservative view on family planning in world religions is well known and dominates international discussions," said Maguire. "Less well known is the adaptability of the world's religions to respond to the new demographic and ecological crisis. This is the first time that distinguished scholars of the world's religions sat with experts in reproductive science and demography to show that the world's religions are not icebergs in the shipping lanes of progress but can be helpful guides and motivators for family planning."

For Mary C. Churchill, women's studies and Native American studies professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder,

"The meeting reminded me of why I went into the academy in the first place: to contribute to projects that can improve the lives of oppressed people, especially American Indians. The academy's emphasis on 'publish or perish' can often divert us from using our status and resources to promote social justice. My work with the Consultation has rekindled in me that commitment and shown me a way to combine the academy with activism."

"I consider the meeting in Philadelphia very important," Parichart Suwanbubbha of Mahidol University in Thailand said, "because it deals with contemporary human issues like the rights of women and the rights to family planning and abortion. I hope to point out the Buddhist teachings and fruitful interpretations to comfort women, family members, doctors and others involved in abortions and show how they may still claim themselves authoritatively as moral and practical Buddhists."

Other scholars working on "The Right to Family Planning" project include: Laurie Zoloth of San Francisco State University; Dr. Jose Barzelatto of the Center for Health and Social Policy; Dr. Oyinade Sodipe of the Ogun State Ministry of Health in Nigeria; Geling Shang of the Harvard Yenching Institute; Christine Gudorf of Florida International University; Jacob K. Olupona of the University of California-Davis; Beverly Harrison, formerly of Union Theological Seminary; Arvind Sharma of McGill University in Montreal; Ping-chen Hsiung of the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan; Riffat Hassan of the University of Louisville; Sandhya Jain, a journalist in India; Anrudh jain of the Population Council; and Funmi Togonu-Bickesteth of Obafemi Owolowo University in Nigeria.

The scholarly papers which result from this project will be published in an academic volume and then in a popular volume aimed at population workers, policy-makers and a more general public. The project's scholars will continue as a Task Force to present briefings and offer their expertise in future policy discussions on family planning issues in the U.S. and abroad.

"We have heard from persons at the United Nations and from international NGOs in the population field expressing their interest in our pioneering work," Maguire said. "We meet again in Princeton next May to critique the first drafts of our papers. We will then work on broadly disseminating our results. We will call on many of you who receive this newsletter to help in that dissemination."

Consultation President Speaks Out at United Nations

This past summer, Religious Consultation President Daniel C. Maguire participated in the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly which was conducting its five-year review of the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (1994). The Religious Consultation has special consultative status as a non-governmental organization with the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council.

The Religious Consultation joined with a coalition of international women's groups led by the International Women's Health Coalition and HERA - Health, Empowerment, Rights and Accountability, which lobbied to ensure that the progressive language and policies adopted at the ICPD in Cairo were maintained and strengthened. The overall goal was to prevent a return to the narrow focus on population "control" in favor of addressing the underlying issues of women's educational needs, universal health and family planning services, and economic empowerment.

Because The Vatican, along with conservative Catholic and Islamic states, were the primary opponents of these progressive views, Dr. Maguire, a Catholic theologian who teaches at Marquette University, was asked to address the Committee of the Whole of the General Assembly. Parts of the speech, delivered on July 1, 1999, are excerpted here.

"Mr. Chairman and distinguished participants, I welcome this opportunity to give voice to religious views too seldom heard in these assemblies. I rise to speak as a Catholic theologian trained in The Vatican's Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. My comments center on The Vatican's idiosyncratic positions on reproductive ethics...


"As informed Catholics know, the Catholic Church has always housed a pro-choice, as well as a no-choice, position on abortion. On the pro-choice side, I cite St. Antoninus, the Archbishop of Florence, who in the fifteenth century defended a woman's right to abortion if needed to save her life -- a huge category in the medical conditions of his day. After that, Archbishop Antoninus was canonized as a saint and thus an example for all the Catholic faithful. The pro-choice position continued and grew. In the seventeenth century, Jesuit Father Sanchez could not find a single Catholic theologian who did not defend women's right to make that life-saving abortion decision. I submit that The Vatican should precede its interventions at the U.N. with a prayer to St. Antoninus, the pro-choice saint of the Catholic Church that The Vatican claims to represent.

"Other religions have strong support for family planning, contraception and abortion. On July 28, 1999, the Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics will convene a program, funded by the Packard Foundation, entitled "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions." The very title of the project signals that other religions which also claim to know something of the sanctity of life have solid, pro-choice positions alongside no-choice positions. These are the facts of religious life, and it is disengenuous to disguise them.

"The Vatican should admit this ambiguity and stop their dogmatism, a dogmatism that offends many Catholics and most of the world's religions. If The Vatican would do that and also surrender their privileged posiition at the United Nations, a position that privileges them above all other religions, perhaps I could relent and call them the 'Holy See.'"

Scholars to Present Findings of "What Men Owe to Women" at AAR Annual Meeting and at Parliament of World Religions

Scholars involved in the Religious Consultation's project on "What Men Owe to Women: Positive Resources from the World's Religions" will present their findings at two important meetings this fall.

John Raines of Temple University will preside over a panel session on the "What Men Owe to Women" project November 21 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston. Participants on the panel include Marvin Ellison of Bangor Theological Seminary, Farid Esack, a Commissioner for Gender Equality in the South African government, Christine Gudorf of Florida International University, Christopher Jocks of Dartmouth College, and Anantanand Rambachan of St. Olaf College.

John Raines will also lead a panel of scholars in the same presentation during the Parliament of the World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa in December. He will be joined by Ellison and Esack as well as Tavivat Puntarigvivat of Mahidol University in Thailand and Benjamin Hubbard of the University of California - Fullerton.

The "What Men Owe to Women" project, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, brought together 12 distinguished male scholars who explored the positive resources supporting mutuality and human rights in male-female relationships in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Native American and Native African traditions. Their work was critiqued by feminist scholars of religion and is currently awaiting publication. Plans call for an academic volume followed by a popular book aimed at policy-makers, journalists and a wider public. The group will continue as a Task Force of the Religious Consultation, speaking out about women's rights and men's responsibilities through the print and broadcast media and in public policy forums.

Other team members included: Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha, Liu Xiaogan, Asghar Ali Engineer and the late Rabbi Ze'ev Falk, to whom the work will be dedicated.

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Youth and the Spiritual Dimension to Addressing Population Growth

By Sandhya Jain

The much-heralded Age of Adolescents has finally dawned. But it is not likely to usher in a brave new world because, notwithstanding the rhetoric, the grim reality is that though young people today constitute the largest-ever segment of the world population, they are not being truly empowered to lead their lives with dignity and freedom. "Empowerment," all are agreed, is the key word. If it is to be meaningful, we will have to shed our prejudices and redesign our socio-cultural and moral framework. Otherwise, we will be swamped by a booming and rootless population. Unfortunately, we have not moved very far in this direction.

As of October 12, we have an unprecedented world population of six billion. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the world population never exceeded one billion. Wars, pestilence, natural calamities, famine, a limit- ed life span, all took their toll on the population, and in turn bequeathed a heavy socio-religio-cultural disposition towards large families. The role model of woman as child-bearer is a legacy of this human need to survive against all odds.

Tragically, tradition still bears down on us even though the socio-cultural landscape has transformed dramatically. Today, socie- ties are being torn apart by the purported demands of faith/tradition on one side, and the shrill exhortations of pragmatism on the other. The first is rigid, and has little to offer by way of moral-spiritual sustenance beyond a tyrannical threat of loss of redemption/salvation. The second is often banal, and tends to get lost in statistics or self-righteousness. A new approach is needed which can address the moral and the material landscape of ordinary men and women.

There is an urgent need to give the population debate a soul, so that it can appeal to men and women as moral-spiritual beings for whom family planning, contraception, and even abortion, are moral choices. Family planning must be liberated from the guilt that it violates an immutable moral precept, as well as from the perception that it is a purely secular decision, as this pits it against organized groups who claim that it violates Gods will. This false juxtaposition between Religion and Reason has proved the greatest stumbling block to birth control, even in developed nations. It is time to call the bluff.

All societies are based on reverence for life. This frequently translates into a belief that children are "gifts of God," as, in a sense, they are. But it also erroneously fosters the view that life in the womb must on no account be terminated, nor attempts made to inhibit conception, and this creates our present dilemma. How do we best demonstrate our respect for the dignity of human life? Do we regulate birth as we control other things in life, or do we breed ourselves to chronic starvation, ecological catastrophe, even extinction?

Science has freed women from being held hostage to unwanted pregnancies, and provided safe exit routes to victims of violence and lust. We can now regulate birth to suit our needs, which have changed because of improved health services. We know that overpopulation degrades human beings and destroys respect for life. Yet we complicate our lives with dogmas that deny us the chance to live our lives to the optimum.

The young, of course, are the worst affected. Some years ago, a 14-year-old rape victim, pregnant with a child she didnt want, was almost prevented from having an abortion by religious busybodies in a conservative western nation. She was saved by courageous political intervention, but at the cost of a sharply divided nation. The moralists who called a minor schoolgirls abortion a subversion of Gods will were least concerned how cruelly a baby would impact her young life. Besides her physical, mental and emotional health, it would affect her basic education, negate the likelihood of higher education, and effectively disempower her for life.

Today, most baby boomers face this fate as governments face conservative opposition to providing youth with access to information about safe sex and relief from unwanted pregnancies. The recent United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development discussed womens rights to sexual and reproductive health, including the issues of abortion, rape and incest. The final document ruled that abortion should not be promoted as a means of family planning, though it is often the last resort of desperate women.

There was similar concern over HIV/AIDS, which afflicts over 47 million people worldwide, and has already claimed 14 million victims. Half the worlds new infections are among youth. Yet no real answers emerged, because of the fear of recognizing the sexual and reproductive health rights of adolescents, especially young women.

The issue of emergency contraceptives for young women was dodged at the Youth Forum at The Hague earlier this year also, despite being raised and approved from the floor. But it is now too late to debate whether youth should be having sex. With one billion adolescents in the reproductive age group, with one-tenth of all births being teenage pregnancies, with HIV/AIDS a grim universal reality, we cannot indulge in moral attitudes. If young people are having sex, we cannot deny them access to safe sex.

This issue is becoming controversial in India as well. The Union Health Ministry proposes to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) to empower minor girls (married or unmarried) to have abortions without their guardians consent. The purpose is to check illegal abortions (eight out of ten abortions are illegal) and the high rate of maternal mortality (45 per 10,000) on account of childbirth to young, particularly teenaged mothers. Predictably, the amendment has fallen afoul of a group called the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, which is threatening an agitation of the issue, on grounds that it will destroy the social fabric and promote 'immorality among youth.

However, one powerful consolation in India is that religion does not pamper obscurantism. The desire for a male child goes deep, and the common complaint of women with several daughters, but helpless against further pregnancies, is that the husband wants a male child to continue the line and perform the last rites. Yet, in cities one finds daughters performing last rites in families where there is no male heir. Earlier, a male relation would be asked to do the honors.

My point is that whenever these breaches of convention take place, the officiating male priest at the ceremony graciously goes along with the spirit of the occasion and the times. There is no known instance of his citing chapter and verse of the scriptures to obstruct this development. Thus, even as India gears up to face a population of one billion at the turn of the century, it is quietly chiseling away at the foundations of the social order that made this possible.

I conclude with the Japanese philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda: "It is by no means certain that methods good in one historical age will be appropriate in another. The true spirit of religion is to adopt only those measures that protect the dignity of life." It is high time we stopped defending coercive motherhood as a religious value, and promote sexual and reproductive health programs for the young, as an investment in the future.

Sandhya Jain is a journalist based in New Delhi, India. This article first appeared in The Pioneer in August. Ms. Jain is one of the participants in the Religious Consultation project on "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions."

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The Guiding Principles of Jewish Reproductive Ethics

By Benjamin Hubbard

Some observers of the abortion wars in America have wondered why even traditional or Orthodox Jews -- though opposed to abortion in most cases -- have not displayed the same passion for the "pro-life" agenda as their conservative Christian counterparts. The answer lies in an understanding of two guiding principles of Jewish reproductive ethics, which illustrate both the complexity of the debate and the dangers of letting government decide unsettled religious and philosophical questions as to when human life begins.


The first of these is that the life of the mother always has primacy over that of the fetus. The Talmud is clear on this point: "If a woman has [life-threatening] difficulty in childbirth, the embryo within her must be dismembered limb by limb [if necessary], because her life takes precedence over its life" (Tractate Oholot 7,6). The same passage however, goes on to note that, once the fetus's head emerges, the abortion procedure may not be performed "for we may not set aside one life for another."

There is no question among Jewish ethicists about the necessity of an abortion when the mother's physical life and health are threatened. Disagreements arise when the definition of "health" is expanded to include emotional or psychological factors. Thus, the Orthodox rabbinate will permit an abortion if the physical life of the mother is at stake but not if there is the threat of abnormalities in the fetus. Thus, an Orthodox rabbi might ask, "How do you know that the child who might be born with a birth defect [because, for example, the mother had German Measles during pregnancy] will be worse off than if it had not been born?"

But the same Orthodox rabbi might look at the matter quite differently if he were convinced that the emotional life of the mother was at grave risk if she gave birth to a child with a severe defect. So, even though an Orthodox rabbi would be less likely than his Conservative or Reform counterpart to condone an abortion for any reason other than the mother's physical health, there is some ethical wiggle room. For a fetus is not a human being.


That, in fact, is the other guiding principle for Jewish ethicists regarding abortion. Feticide is not homicide in Jewish law. Beginning with the Bible and reiterated in the Talmud, Jewish law has made the determination that fetal life is not the same as personal life. There is no question that life of some sort begins with the zygote and embryo, but it is not the life of a human being. In fact, the fetus is considered part of its mother. But once the fetus enters the world -- even if premature -- it takes on a new status and is now a person.

The most famous biblical passage relating to abortion is Exodus 21.22-23: "When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm [to the combatants] follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon himBut if any harm [to the woman] follows, then you shall give life for life" A clear distinction is made between the life of the fetus (for whom damages must be paid) and that of the mother (for whom the death penalty is prescribed).


Judaism makes a distinction between the right to be born and the right to life. Abortion is permissible, even required, in some instances; but the child's life is inviolable and on a par with its mother once born. Abortion, moreover, ought to be a last resort, not used for birth control or population management. Fetal life is sacred even if not personal.

Most of the world's religious traditions -- Islam, for example -- allow some leeway on the permissibility of abortion. Religious leaders and ethicists from the so-called "pro-choice" and "pro-life" sides ought to be in regular dialogue with one another about this divisive issue. They might then learn from one another to see the matter in all its moral and medical complexity, and together they might find ways to make abortions less necessary and yet always available and safe.

Finally, governments ought to tread carefully in this domain and show profound respect for the differing conclusions that deeply religious people reach on the morality of abortion.

Benjamin J. Hubbard is Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Religion at California State University in Fullerton, Calif. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Consultation on Population. His most recent book (co-authored with John Hatfield and James Santucci) is America's Religions: An Educator's Guide to Beliefs and Practices.

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Book on Women and Population Offers Important Analysis

By Daniel C. Maguire

I have been reading Women, Population and Global Crisis: A Political-Economic Analysis by Asoka Bandarage (Zed Books, 1997). It is an interesting critique of the population debate drawn especially from the perspective of a feminist woman of color.

Bandarage's main thesis is that population stabilization "without poverty alleviation, environmental restoration and demilitarization results in the exacerbation of the existing problems and the victimization of poor women. ... [G]rowing global economic inequality, not population growth, is the main issue of our time." She does not deny the need for family planning, including contraception and abortion. "The magnitude and speed of global population increase or decrease will have a major impact upon political-economic as well as environmental evolution in the 21st century."

Malthusians are the enemy in her view because "like Malthus, contemporary Malthusian analysts who work within the population control paradigm advocate population stabilization as a substitute for social justice and political-economic transformation." This approach "reduces 'women's rights' to 'reproductive rights' which in turn are equated with 'population policies.'" Population stabilization without the economic empowerment of all peoples is only a "band aid solution."

Bandarage sees too much of this Malthusianism and a too narrow, one rubric population "control" obsession even in the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action and in the thought of many liberal feminists who work out of the market capitalistic dogma of unlimited growth.

Bandarage discusses the negative influence of world religions regarding population and reproductive health issues, but does not mention the positive values in religion and their potential power. Yet, significantly, she rests her hope in "a new global ethic and spirituality that is based on universal right and social justice." She also cites the need for "an organic worldview which sees the inherent interconnectedness of all phenomena ... the need for qualitative development ... compassion in all of our relationships" without referencing the rooting and development of these essential cures in Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, etc. Her book underlines once again the need for religious leaders on the progressive, reforming sides of these great traditions to contribute to the ongoing debates on population and economic justice and to work toward just and compassionate solutions.

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Tracking the Activities of Our Participating Scholars

Simeon O. Ilesanmi has been awarded tenure and been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor of Religion at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He recently won a Laurance S. Rockefeller fellowship and was appointed a fellow of the Center for Human Values at Princeton University for 1999-2000. While at the Center, Ilesanmi will be writing a book on religion and human rights in African political thought. He was also elected a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton....

Laurie Zoloth, Chair of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University, was just elected President of the American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities for 2001-2002. She has co-edited two volumes in the Series on Bioethics from the University Publishing Group: Notes From a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics, edited with Dena Davis; and Margin of Error: The Inevitability, Epistemology and Ethics of Mistakes in Medicine and Bioethics, with Susan Rubin....

Tavivat Puntarigvivat, a Buddhist scholar at Mahidol University at Salaya in Thailand, has been much sought after by the Thai broadcast and print media to comment on the issue of "Dhammakaya" -- a capitalist/consumerist form of Thai Buddhism which has been gaining adherents. He spoke recently on "Business and Religion: Merit or Sin?" and "Dhammakaya and Buddhism" on Thai television. In June, he did a presentation, "Dhammakaya: Problems of Theory and Practice" at the Oriental Culture Academy in Bangkok. His article, "Toward a Buddhist Social Ethics: The Case of Thailand," was published in Cross Currents (Fall, 1998, 347-365). He will participate in the Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town in December, presenting findings of the Religious Consultation's "What Men Owe to Women" project with other team members....

John C. Raines of the Department of Religion at Temple University has been awarded a Senior Fulbright Research Grant for Spring, 2000. He will lecture at the Muslim Religious College in Jakarta on the uses of modern and post-modern social sciences in the study of religion. He will work with local religious scholars to establish the first graduate level program in Comparative Religion at the University of Indonesia. "Ninety percent of Indonesians are Muslims," Raines commented, "and religion is a required subject from elementary school through university. But up to now, students have studied only their own religion, taught by teachers who have studied only their own religion. Religion is learned dogmatically rather than descriptively and comparatively. This has consequences on the problems of ethnic strife and misunderstanding in Indonesia. Students in the program will have to major in a religion other than their own and learn to use modern methodologies in that study." ...

Nawal H. Ammar has been tenured and promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at Kent State University. She is currently a Fellow of the Open Society Institute studying "Health and Reproductive Health Among Women Inmates in Ohio Prisons." She won (along with Dr. Edna Erez) a National Institute of Justice Grant to study the Criminal Justice Response to Battered Immigrant Women. Earlier this year, she addressed the United Nation's Commission for Social Development, 37th Session, as one of four experts on service delivery in the 21st century. Recent publications include: "Women's Grassroots Movements in Egypt: Legal and Social Democratization," with Leila Lababidy, in Democratization and Women's Grassroots Movements, J. Bystyziensk and J. Sekhon (eds.) from Indiana University Press; and "Health Care Delivery in Ohio Women's Prisons" Fellow Observer, Spring 1999, Vol. II, No. II....

Mary C. Churchill of the University of Colorado-Boulder participated in the "Critical Issues in Reproductive Health" series sponsored by the University of Colorado-Denver and the Colorado National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Her presentation, "When No One is Left to Choose: Choice and American Indian Women," critiqued the feminist strategy of emphasizing reproductive "choice" by examining issues central to indigenous women's reproductive health, including the unethical practices involved in providing contraceptives to Native women, sterilization, the effects of toxic wastes on reproductive health and the loss of many traditional puberty rites. Churchill is with the Religious Consultation's "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions" project....

James Martin-Schramm of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa will have two papers published as part of anthologies: "Incentives, Consumption Patterns, and Population Policies: A Christian Ethical Perspective" in Christianity and Ecology, from Harvard University Press; and "Population, Consumption, and Ecojustice: A Moral Assessment of the United Nations 1994 International Conference on Population and Development" in Consumption, Population, and Sustainability: Perspectives from Science and Religion, from Island Press. He represented the World Council of Churches at meetings of the United Nations during the ICPD+5 review process this year and will be the Convenor for "Race, Population, and Environmental Justice," at the American Academy of Religion meeting in Boston in November....

After completing her five-year position as Program Officer in the Population division at the Ford Foundation, Marjorie Muecke of the University of Washington has been in ChiangMai, Thailand to continue research on two projects. One explores the biases and blind spots in the Thai health care system, specifically, the neglected problem of male drunkenness and its impact on reproductive health. In spite of Buddhist prescriptions against liquor, beer is one of the top consumer items in the country, and the negative ramifications of excessive drinking are all but ignored in Thai health care policy. Muecke is also conducting an AIDS study among urban families in northern Thailand and identifying discontinu- ities between the prevailing AIDS ideology in Thailand and actual social experiences of the disease. She plans to publish her findings after the research is completed....

Julia Ching, R.C. and E.Y. Lee Chair Professor at the University of Toronto, received a senior scholar grant of $30,000 from the CCK Foundation. She traveled to Hong Kong for a conference in July and to China for a research trip afterwards. She will be a distinguished visitor at the National University of Singapore next year.

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