One source of tension between Islam and Christianity is the position of women; strict Muslim societies treat women as second-class citizens, while the Gospel proclaims that all are equal under Christ, thus liberating women. Pakistan has been slow to provide equality for women due to a strong fundamentalist Muslim presence.
AsiaNews/Agencies (03/09/06) Our Lady and Mother Teresa as role models for Pakistani women seeking improvements of their condition in society as well as society as a whole was one of the topics of discussion in yesterdays meeting in Kasur (south of Lahore) of young Christian and Muslim women organised by Milap, a Catholic NGO, for International Womens Day.
Milap Director Margaret Piara said that women and girls can find in Our Lady and Mother Teresa a role model in the service of humanity. She noted that a good woman is a crown for her husband and criticised the tradition of celebrating the birth of a boy with a great family feast but bemoan the birth of a daughter. How can a woman do this to another female? she asks.
The meeting saw the participation of some 30 Muslim and Christian women and girls currently attending Milaps sewing centre. One of the students, Shafia Yusaf, said that women today are not weak, but are like a rock. If they want it, they can fight and overcome any obstacle. You are weak when you dont fight and others take advantage of you, she added.
A teacher at the centre, Agnes, urged the students to pray and overcome even the greatest obstacles with love. She told the future seamstresses to use every opportunity that comes their way at the school, and encouraged them take advantage of inter-faith exchange. Women, she insisted, can lead inter-faith dialogue at a grassroots level.
Another teacher, Rani, said that in a society like that of Pakistan , dominated by men, if we always keep an eye on God we can continue to fight and pray together so that women can get respect.
Participants also prayed for the NGOs involved in promoting womens legal rights. They prayed especially for those who are fighting against the Hudood ordinances. Even among majority Muslims, many women are demanding the repeal of such discriminatory laws.
The Hudood ordinances were introduced in 1979 when Pakistan was ruled by a military junta led by the late General Zia-ul-Haq. They are operating principles are drawn from Islamic law and, in four parts, address issues relating to property, adultery and what is illicit.
Rape and adultery are treated as the same. Four adult male Muslim witnesses willing to testify are required to prove rape. Unless their evidence is entered in court of law, a rape victim can be charged with adultery and sentenced to prison or death (by stoning).