for a Feminization of the Church
To prepare for the International Womens Day (March 8th)
we offer a paper by a Professor of Theology and Sociology at
the Diocesan Seminary (St Pius College, Aarey Road, Goregaon
East, Mumbai 400063) and National Ecclesiastical Advisor of
the Catholic Womens Council of India (CCWI). The paper
was presented at the FABC Conference on Women (BILA II), Pattaya,
Thailand, 18 October 1998. Fr DMello offers five paradigms
of feminism and opts for the solidarity paradigm as most appropriate
for Asia. He then shows how it can operate in the Church at
the level of the Bible, Theology and Liturgy and how it calls
the Church to be involved in micromovements.
Need for a Paradigm
the year 1950, a year or two after the assassination of Gandhi,
the whole of India was raving about Gandhian views and Gandhian
ideals: the principle of village self-sufficiency, the principle
of bread labour, swadeshi, vegetarianism, simple living,
etc. It was then that the President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad,
also caught up in this wave of Gandhism, decided to print all
his correspondence on hand-made paper. Confiding this to Dr
Kishore Mushroowalla, the Director of the Gandhian Institute
of studies, Dr Mushroowalla advised him as follows: "Dont
do this! In order to print on hand-made paper, you will have
to buy special paper, special ink, special equipment and you
will have to train a whole set of workers to use this machinery".
"Instead", he said, "take off your brain and
put on a Gandhian brain, put on a Gandhian way of thinking,
a Gandhian mentality, and then perhaps all the principles and
policies of Gandhi will flow automatically". In other words,
take care of the vision, the paradigm: practical policies and
implications will take care of themselves.
the same can be said of the phenomenon of the subordination
of women and the difficulty of male-female partnerships within
the Church. The real problem is the paradigm, the thinking,
the mentality. At the present time the paradigm, both in
society and the Church, continues to be androcentric or patriarchal.
What we need is a widening of our horizons, a broadening
of our understanding and vision. What we need is a "feminization
of the Church" or, put more simply, we need a people of
God with an increasing feminist consciousness. The term feminization
of the Church might sound strange to some ears, even though
today expressions like feminization of the work force
are quite popular. In this paper however by feminization
is not meant a Church with a "feminine" face or a
Church with feminine characteristics nor even a Church with
a more "visible female presence" (just as previously
for 2,000 years we had a masculine or male-dominated Church),
but by feminization is meant a process whereby
the Church acquires an egalitarian, mutually respectful, cosmopolitan,
cross-cultural consciousness. It is only then that there
will be a true discipleship of equals and an end to all forms
of discrimination, not just the discrimination based on gender.
Only then will there be no more distinctions between Jew or
Greek, slave or free person, male or female. Only then shall
we attain the oneness in Jesus Christ (cf. Gal 3:28).
the literature of the womens movement I can visualise
five paradigms for such a feminization of the Church; all paradigms
are heuristically constructed and none of them are strictly
exclusive. Overlapping between them is quite possible.
The Five Paradigms
complementary paradigm: "Equal" but complementary
to this paradigm, women are not the fairer sex, the weaker sex,
but the complementary sex. Taking its cue from Genesis that
God created human beings male and female, this paradigm shows
that men need women just as much as women need men. They complement
each other. This might sound nice in theory, but in practice
such thinking leads to a two-nature anthropology, a vision of
human beings as divided into two different kinds, each with
identifiable differences that become normative for the sex (Mary
Aquin ONeill, "The Mystery of Being Human Together"
in Freeing Theology, ed. Catherine Mowry LaCugna, San
Francisco: Harper, 1993 p. cit. 149). Thus males have
a whole set of unique characteristics and females have another
whole set of complementary characteristics. Men are supposed
to be, by nature, active, rational, wilful, assertive, aggressive,
autonomous beings, whose direction goes outward into the world;
while women are passive, intuitive, emotional, caring, compassionate,
connected beings whose natural inclination is inward. This bipolar
vision of the sexes leads to an equally bipolar understanding
of their respective place, namely the world and the home (E1izabeth
Janeway, Mans World, Womans Place, New York:
Del, 1971). Men are to go out and work, be the breadwinners;
while household tasks are reserved for women childcare
and looking after the home (cf. Laborem Exercens, n.
19). In reality, men have decided the model and the roles in
this model. Once the assignations are made, women are supposed
to complement the role of men. "Woman," they say,
"is a companion for man!"
equality paradigm: Equal as sameness
to this paradigm, women demand equal rights or the same rights
that men have previously appropriated. This is a paradigm that
arose out of the early womens movement in Britain and
the U.S., a movement which was associated with the right of
franchise and the right to education. Thus, if previously men
were allowed to vote, women should now be allowed to vote. If
men are allowed to be Presidents, women too should have the
right to be President. If men have a football team, women too
ought to have the right to have their own football team. If
men have a right to ordination, women should not be disallowed.
In other words, for this group, women should have the "same"
rights as men.
sisterhood paradigm: Equal but separate
to this thinking, women as a group must stick together and form
their own sisterhood. Men find it hard to understand their problems,
their experiences so the only way is for women to come
together and develop their own consciousness, their own models,
their own strategies to defend their rights. Thus, women have
spoken in terms of leaving the male-dominated Church and forming
their own Church or having a separate Bible and a separate lectionary.
Their point is that women need to have an exodus from the male-dominated
Church (Rosemary Radford Ruether, Women Church: Theology
and Practice, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988:57-9 and
Denise Lardner Carmody, Virtuous Woman, Maryknoll: Orbis
Books, 1992:125-30. It is to be emphasised that both authors
do not really advocate separatism. They are only speaking of
"temporarily" or "methodologically" being
apart) in order to experience their liberation, they need to
stay apart from this Church, reflect on their experiences and
theologise imaginatively to come up with their own symbols and
expressions. Others feel that sisterhood groups are still not
homogeneous in their thinking. There is no universal sisterhood.
They point to several women who have absorbed androcentric values
and cultures, for instance, mothers-in-law who continue to inflict
violence on their daughters-in-law.
Difference Paradigm: Equal but different
to this paradigm, women are different from men, not just in
their way of thinking, but even in their mode of being. There
is an epistemological difference, which is based on an ontological
difference. Women and men are not only different in their ways
of thinking and acting but in their very being. Thus,
there are different norms for men and for women. At present
however the norms are decided by men while women are supposed
to fit these norms. If they do not, they are considered to be
inferior or inadequate. (Just as IQ measures are culturally
based youth from an urban culture are not more intelligent
than youth from a rural background: their intelligence is different).
For example, the standards of good health, the criteria
of wellness are framed according to male norms.
Women naturally do not fit these norms, hence they are declared
unwell or less than healthy. Descriptions of women as "often
having headaches!" or ascribing most problems of women
to their feminine state or caricaturing their problems as "being
manufactured in the mind" are typical examples of modes
of thinking which do not respect differences between the sexes.
Feminists that hold fast to this difference paradigm
assert that women should develop their own norms and standards.
This paradigm leads to plurality since the problems and issues
of Third World women are quite different from those of First
Paradigm: Equal but in solidarity
is a paradigm that arises typically from Asian cultures and
encompasses elements from the other paradigms. In this paradigm
the issues of women, pea-sants, workers, dalits, tribals and
ecology are all connected. There is an interface and interaction
between sexism, racism, casteism, colonialism, fundamentalism,
environmental destruction and violence. Patriarchy is not just
domination of females by males, by an entire socio-cultural-political
system of graded subjugations and dominations (Elizabeth Schussler
Fiorenza, "For Women in Mens Worlds: A Critical Feminist
Theology of Liberation", Concilium 1984/n. 171,34).
In this Asian paradigm, not only is the question of male domination,
caste and class addressed in an integrated way, but the over-all
question of the transformation of society is also addressed.
Thus, the Asian paradigm is not just addressing the question
of equal rights only, but envisaging a fundamentally different
perspective on each and every issue and aspect of society (Gabriele
Dietrich in "South Asian Feminist Theory and its Significance
for Feminist Theology", in Concilium 1996/1,103).
For instance, when Vandana Shiva conceptualises womens
subsistence production she connects it with a spirituality of
reconciliation with Mother Earth and, at the same time, makes
a scathing criticism of Western science and technology as patriarchal
and colonial. In other words, issues of feminism are connected
with issues of consumerism and competitiveness (Vandana Shiva
in Staying Alive: India, Ecology and Survival in India. New
Delhi: Kali for Women, 1988).
feminist theology in South Asia finds itself in a situation
where Christianity is a small minority religion. Hence feminist
religion must contend with issues of fundamentalism and communalism.
The question of violence must be dealt with in an integrated
way which does not allow neat boundaries between domestic violence,
public rowdyism, communal and caste violence and
ethnic warfare. Violence must be analysed in all its interlinkages
(Gabriele Dietrich, in "South Asian Feminist Theory and
its Significance for Feminist Theology" in Concilium
1996/1:109). Feminism is not an autarchic entity but a way
of thinking that develops connections between social forces
and allows for the analysis of the linkages between class, caste,
gender and race.
made a survey of the five paradigms, my next question is: which
is the most appropriate paradigm for theological thinking in
the Church? To arrive at my answer, I need to make a quick survey
of the contemporary situation.
Choosing a Paradigm: A Survey of the Contemporary Scene
the present time economic globalization is spreading its tentacles
in Asia relentlessly and with it come liberalisation and unbridled
expansion of the market forces. The World Bank, IMF (International
Monetary Fund) and WTO (World Trade Organisation) are extending
their powers, and the 80-odd developing countries that have
been forced to accept their structural adjustment programme
are experiencing two consequences:
an ever widening gap between the wealthy and the marginalized,
· oppressive conditions for vulnerable sections of the population
like women, children, the old and the unemployed.
with economic expansion there is also the globalization of culture.
Fewer and fewer companies are controlling TV channels and the
media. The world is experiencing a McDonaldization of culture,
and by this I mean not the expansion of fast-food restaurants
all over the world, but the bombardment of TV channels with
values from a hegemonistic First World culture. The treatment
of woman as a commodity is becoming universalized. At a more
subtle level, we see the growth of the cosmetic industry with
the parallel and associated rise of beauty competitions, where
model/winners are more and more chosen from the developing countries
to propagandize these products. At a more direct level, we are
witnesses to continuous trafficking in young girls and growing
violence against women.
third alarming phenomenon of the present situation is the rise
of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism with its increasingly centralizing
and hierarchical form of control has tremendous negative repercussions
for women and the egalitarian enterprise. The laws in Pakistan
are an example, of which the blasphemy law in particular
this brief survey of the contemporary Asian scene we arrive
at the conclusion that discriminating against women is linked
to the discrimination of other marginalized groups, and therefore
a feminist consciousness cannot be closed in on itself, but
will necessarily broaden and encompass the perspectives of other
oppressed groups in society. In other words, the optimal paradigm
for Asian society is the solidarity paradigm.
The Solidarity Paradigm: Consequences for Theology and the Church
the fact that we wish to opt for a solidarity paradigm, how
do we develop a theological consciousness that fosters this
paradigm of feminization of the Church? How do we develop a
feminist consciousness that is in solidarity with other powerless
people? The first step would be a reinterpretation of Scripture,
a re-fashioning of theology and a reconstruction of the Liturgy
to include womens experiences and perspectives.
Feminist Approaches to the Bible, Theology and Liturgy
Bible offers images, symbols, stories and passages that inspire,
motivate and influence. Unfortunately, there are also many images
of women in the Bible which enhance models of women as submissive
and subordinate, rather than as independent and assertive.
theologians, taking their cue from Liberation Theology, have
developed a method of doing theology and interpreting the Bible.
Schussler Fiorenza calls it a "critical liberation method"
(Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, "For Women in Mens
Worlds: A Critical Feminist Theology of Liberation", in
Concilium 1984/n.171, 34-5). It starts with a womans
experience of oppression from which a critique of the traditional
interpretation is made. This is followed by the retrieval and
recovery of womans histories and womans insights.
The last step is imaginative reconstruction (Anne Carr in "The
New Vision of Feminist Theology" in LaCugna (ed.), Freeing
Biblical scholars have critiqued the traditional construction
of symbols and personages of the Bible and recovered for us
new insights about these persons. One clear example is the traditional
construction of the image of Mary Magdalene as prostitute and
sinner. Feminist scholars have shown that she was, in fact,
none of these things. It was Gregory the Great (540-604 CE)
who mistakenly identified Mary Magdalene with the sinner in
Lk 7:36-50 and with Mary of Bethany in Jn 12:1-8 and understood
the seven devils of Lk 8:1-3 to be seven capital sins. As a
result Mary Magdalene was cast into the role of Eve, sinner,
weak woman, given to the flesh, given to crying, waster of perfume,
temptress, prostitute, so as to more strongly contrast with
her conversion patterned on the new Eve, pure, chaste, holy,
forgiven much because she loved much. In many countries, Magdalene
houses were opened to cater to the rehabilitation of repentant
prostitutes. The story of the unknown woman in Mt (26:6-13)
and Mk (14:3-9) is constructed merely as a story of conversion,
repentance and forgiveness (John DMello in Neythri
(Women Leader) August 1997, Bangalore: CCWI).
research of feminist scholars has uncovered new insights
about the unknown woman who anointed Jesus. They highlight her
boldness and courage to gatecrash into a house full of men in
a society where women were considered inferior. The earlier
tradition also failed to notice the fact that she is the first
woman to acknowledge Jesus as the messiah (through the symbolic
gesture of anointing with perfume) at a time when the other
apostles, including Peter, misunderstood or were openly sceptical
of the nature of his messiahship. That is why Jesus gives her
one of the greatest compliments he could give to any disciple:
"Wherever the gospel is proclaimed.... you will always
be remembered". As for Mary Magdalene, far from being a
sinner or prostitute, she is one of the foremost woman disciples,
a primary witness of both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection,
or even more, the "Apostle to the Apostles" as the
Eastern Church is still wont to venerate her (John DMello
in Neythri (Woman Leader) March 1997, Bangalore: CCWI).
Thus, feminist scholarship has recovered new symbols and archetypes
of courage and discipleship for women.
second big area which can lead to the feminization of the Church
is theology. A paradigm shift in theology is called for. At
present most theology taught in seminaries and in lay theology
courses tends to be androcentric or patriarchal in its assumptions.
Most importantly, although women are allowed to study the Bible
and theology, they are generally not appointed to teaching positions
in theology in catholic seminaries.
critical liberative method has given us, for instance, a whole
new understanding in Mariology. Mary is one of the powerful
and popular symbols of Christian piety and spirituality. The
three symbols of traditional Mariology have been that of virgin,
mediatrix and the new Eve. Since Mary is the type and model
for all disciples, these symbols have been used again and again
to shape the Christian disciples notions of sexuality
(as sexlessness and denigration of the body), of the subordinate
position of woman and of woman as temptress (the old Eve in
contrast to the new Eve). Theologians with a feminist
soul insist that we need to recover the image of Mary
as a woman of independence and courage, symbol of motherhood
and a sister in suffering and oppression (Maurice Hamington,
Hail Mary. London: Routledge, 1995). Likewise, Rosemary
Radford Ruether and others have pointed out the inadequacies
of a patriarchal "kingly" Christology that stresses
the "maleness" of Christ. She proposes "androgynous"
and "spirit Christologies (Rosemary Radford Ruether,
Sexism and God-Talk, London: SCM; 1983). Fiorenza suggests
Christology that is silent about the socio-political causes
of Jesus execution and stylizes him as the paradigmatic
sacrificial victim whose death was either willed by God or
necessary to propitiate God continues the kyriarchal cycle
of violence and victimization rather than empower believers
for resisting or transforming it (Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza,
"Introduction" to Violence against Women, Concilium,
theologian Elizabeth Johnson illustrates how understanding Jesus
as Sophia the Wisdom of God can be very
enriching for Christology. Sophia is a feminine image that was
very much in use in early Christianity. The term was used by
Paul, John and implicitly by Matthew. It enables us to apply
the rich Wisdom tradition to our understanding of Christ. The
Wisdom tradition which was very emphatic about justice,
was respectful of other religions and cultures, and concerned
about the entire universe broadens our understanding
of Christology and gives it a comprehensive and inclusive flavour
(Elizabeth Johnson "Redeeming the Name of Christ"
in LaCugna (ed.), Freeing Theology, 120-34).
sphere that is important for building feminist consciousness
is the sphere of the liturgy. The Church is an agency of socialization.
Through its liturgies it shapes the values, ideals, norms and
conscience of its disciples, especially the young.
the womens role in the liturgy is sidelined. I am not
merely referring to the fact that women cannot be ordained or
that many countries have not yet adopted the inclusive language
lectionary, but I am referring to the shadow role
that women characters play in the lectionary readings and the
portrait of women that appears therefrom.
a study of the Common Lectionary, Marjorie Proctor Smith
found only 14 per cent of significant references to women in
the liturgical readings. Another 6 per cent were peripheral
references. Women are included only in so far as they relate
to male characters, not regarded as actors in their own right.
Mostly they are expendable. For instance, while the Confession
of Peter is read in all three years of the cycle in all synoptic
parallels, the Messianic Anointing by a Woman found in Mt and
Mk, at the beginning of the Passion, is read only once in three
years, though it could just as appropriately be called a Confession
of Jesus (Marjorie Proctor Smith, "Image of Women in the
Lectionary", Concilium, Dec. 1985, 60).
could be argued that women were not very visible or active in
the Biblical era and the Bible simply reflects this regrettable
fact. But it is the function of a lectionary to be selective
rather than representative. We need to recall and celebrate
women of our biblical heritage in whom God has been made manifest
and through whom God has worked: the stories of Sarah, Rebekah,
Rachel and Leah, of Miriam and Deborah, of Jael and Judith,
of Abigail, Vashti, Naomi and Ruth, of Shiprah and Puah, of
the wise woman of Tekoa and of Huldah the prophet, of the women
missionaries, leaders and disciples of the New Testament. We
need to recall also "texts of terror" (Phyllis Trible,
Texts of Terror. Literary Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1985) stories of struggle,
violence and suffering, stories of the rape, betrayal, abuse
and murder of women which also belong to the biblical heritage.
They are part and parcel of the stories of women of today. The
secondary position that women characters play in the liturgy
reinforces her secondary position in society.
Network Theology, Interdisciplinary Theology, Planetary Theology
second step in enhancing an egalitarian and cosmopolitan consciousness
in the Church is to develop a broad-based theology. A feminist
theology is not limited to womens interests and questions
but is related to other theologies and the self-reflection of
other oppressed groups. By insisting on the importance of wholeness
as a basic category in theology, feminist theology opens itself
out to other streams of liberation theology. One might say feminist
theology flows into "planetary theology" (Tissa Balasuriya,
"Why Planetary Theology" in Third World Liberation
Theologies, ed. Deane William Ferm, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis
Books, 1990) to use an expression coined by Tissa Balasuriya.
Feminist theology becomes the starting point for other liberation
theologies, for interdisciplinary theologies and for a network
of contextualized theologies.
While Feminist theology liberates theology from androcentric
assumptions and patriarchal thinking, and imaginatively reconstructs
theology from a mutually respectful point of view. Ecological
theology liberates theology from a humano-centric perspective
(a perspective that views humans as the sole focus of theology)
and reconstructs theology from a cosmocentric perspective
(where the entire cosmos, including plants and animals, earth
and oceans, become the focus of the theological viewpoint).
When these two perspectives are combined, we have an Eco-feminist
Theology, which not only combines the concerns of feminism
with the concern of ecology based on the striking parallels
between the rape of the earth the rape of women, but reacquires
feminist styles of living and thinking as the only means for
preserving environmental sanity.
Again, inter-religious theology frees traditional theology
from a narrow-minded vision which considers the Roman Catholic
Church as "containing the fullness of truth" (the
Church as identified with the Kingdom of God), pushing it
to broader pluralistic horizons where truth is sought in other
religions as well (the Kingdom of God is larger than the Church)
thus enabling us to learn from other religious traditions.
When this theology is combined on the inter-religious perspective,
we develop Religious Environmentalism which focuses
on an inter-religious perspective in preserving the environment,
and is concerned with the symbols and stories that Buddhism,
Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and other religions have to
offer on the question of ecological preservation.
Likewise, Dalit, Minjung and similar theologies combine with
feminist perspectives to produce other contextualized Third
World theologies which liberate traditional theology from
its First World, supposedly universalistic viewpoint
and construct theologies of struggle that celebrate the world
views of oppressed, Third World womens groups.
Moral Theology for a global world: Above all, the feminist
solidarity perspective stimulates theology to take on a global
character. This point can be elaborated with the example of
moral theology. The solidarity paradigm provokes a radical
recasting of the moral discourse. By insisting on no
separation between the personal and the political, feminist
philosophy is pushing for a movement from an individualistic,
casuistic type to a collective, communitarian form of ethics.
It is asking that ethical discourse move from the private
and personal sphere and include the public sphere of politics
and economics. The ethical discourse has to be a critique
of political and economic decisions and policies, an exercise
in questioning the values behind them, since these are the
policies affecting vulnerable groups like women.
the present time ethics/moral theology is largely concerned
with the actions, intentions and motives of individuals. There
are schools of business ethics preoccupied with ethical decision
making, wrong practice, behaviour and the morality of individuals.
They are scarcely concerned with the very structure of the company,
its policies, its organizations of authority, its laws, the
functioning of its board, its attitude towards workers, its
expansionist tendencies. Focusing only on the actions and intentions
of individuals is like a river flowing to the ocean carrying
sewage water. One may plant a few trees along the river banks,
one might make the route a little more scenic but basically
the river is left untouched and the dirty water flows as before
(John DMello, "Towards the Promotion of Ethical Culture",
paper presented at the 1998 Copenhagen Conference on Social
Progress, Denmark, 1998 (forthcoming publication by Danida:
Copenhagen). The ethical discourse, instead of merely discussing
the behaviour of individual executives and politicians, should
focus on the very structure of multinational and transnational
companies, the big financial institutions, the IMF, the WB and
the WTO, their policies and the power controlling them.
press is concerned about the lies that Clinton tells in his
private life, but is not concerned with the lies that he may
tell with regard to US interference in other countries. The
world is concerned with the private morality of a US President,
but it is scarcely concerned with the fact that the US is one
of the biggest defaulters on its United Nations dues; and this
is a moral issue affecting millions of vulnerable
people including women.
in connection with the Intellectual Property Rights, the WTO
passed a law on patents to defend the so-called individual
rights of discoverers and inventors. This is an iniquitous law.
Take the patenting of neem for example. For over
1,500 years Indian farmers and Indian women were using neem-based
pesticides and medicines. Recently however, a few Japanese and
American firms, one of which is W.R. Grace, have filed patents
on formulae for neem-based solutions, emulsions and neem-based
toothpaste. W.R. Grace has set about manufacturing and commercializing
the product by establishing a base in India. As a result of
India being forced to sign the IPR Treaty, under the WTO regime,
Indian farmers and housewives have now to pay "royalties"
to W.R. Grace for buying a product that they had been using
for centuries (Vandana Shiva, "Science, Ecology and Human
Rights" in Human Wrongs. Penang: Just World Trust,
1996, 155). The ethical issue at bottom is the structure of
the IPR treaty. Individual ethics would find no fault with the
IPR treaty, in fact, would encourage it; but a structural, communitarian
ethics would reject it totally as being heavily biased against
the poor housewives of developing countries.
the morality of environmental issues has not been sufficiently
dealt with in our moral theologies. The United Nations has ranked
nations according to three indices: a per capita income index,
a poverty line index and a human development index. Perhaps
it also needs to come up with an ethical index, that concerns
itself with womens rights, energy consumption and other
Third World issues. Just as the IMF wishes to maintain report
cards on those developing countries that are defaulting in their
balance of payments, so also another agency needs to be empowered
to keep track of the greenhouse gas emissions of transnational
and developed countries. This is equally a moral issue, even
though the moral agent in this regard is an institution. Thus,
the feminist consciousness compels theology to become more global
in its scope and problematic.
The Involvement of the Church in Micromovements
a third step in the feminization of the Church would be the
latters increasing role as an agent of civil society.
At the present time the spaces of civil society are being usurped
by market forces or by the State. Churches, along with non-government
organizations, have an important role to play in safeguarding
the territory of civil society.
from this, an essential quality of Christian discipleship in
todays world is to be part of a counter-cultural, micromovement.
These are participatory peoples movements that have come
out of the struggles of peoples. These are not macro processes
but often they are grassroots projects that are confined to
a particular locality or a few villages. Sometimes they operate
in several villages, multiply and involve large movements (Ponna
Wiggnaraja, "Rethinking Development and Democracy"
in New Social Movements in the South, London: Zed Books,
1993). These movements have been attempting to better and enrich
impoverished human relations, trying to turn the tide set by
the process of globalization. Thus the fishermens forum,
the cooperatives, for land-less labourers, the forum on violence
against women, women against alcohol, anti-moneylenders groups,
environmental organizations, women against dowry, youth groups,
lawyers collectives, judicial activists, etc. There are
over 250,000 Non-Government Organizations in the world (Julie
Fisher, NGOs and the Political Development of the World,
Connecticut: Kumarian Press, 1998) and many of these agents
of civil society (though not all) have been making quiet transformations
in the interstitial spaces of society. Some have been openly
campaigning against issues and some have even started to influence
the state and transnational organizations. These are peoples
movements. They are nondenominational, inter-religious movements.
These micromovements are crucial for womens empowerment.
The aim of the micro-movements is not to gain publicity, to
capture power, or to be in the limelight, but only to bring
about structures that are more just. These movements form part
of the "dialogue of life and action". They are movements
that are performing a veritable service to life. Many would
call them signs of the action of the Holy Spirit. If the Church
wishes to feminize itself and by this I mean develop
a mutually respectful consciousness one sure way is to
be part of the wave of micromovements that are slowly and gradually
gaining momentum in the Two-Thirds World and are a powerful
antidote to the evil effects of globalization.
this post-modern society, feminization of the Church
or the development of an egalitarian, cosmopolitan, global consciousness
is not an option any more. It is a condition of survival
that echoes the well-known maxim: "Think globally and act
Vidyajyoti, Vol. 63, n. 2, February 1999.