Liberate Women March 2018

Liberate Women

Archbishop Peter Chong

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

I congratulate women for their contribution to families, the basic cell of society. In mentioning families, I am aware of the many forms of families (e.g. single parent families, separated families etc.) that exist today where women play an important role. I also congratulate women for their contributions to the social, cultural, spiritual, economic and political spheres of society.

As the leader of the Catholic Church in Fiji I am proud of our women’s contribution to the Church and society. Catholic women are leading in key ministries in the Church, such as Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation programs and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. My Chancellor (General Secretary) is a woman. Based on my observations, women are more committed to prayer meetings, choir practice, and other Church activities. The Catholic Women’s League has been a leading agent for education, empowerment and development of women. Due to the Catholic Women’s League, women are the more socially informed gender in the Catholic Church. This raises a pastoral challenge for the Church: How do we minister to the men? I encourage our parishes to include more women in leadership roles, especially in parish pastoral council and the finance council.

I empathize and pray for women who are not able to enjoy these achievements. I speak on behalf of the Catholic Social Teaching and denounce societies, cultures and peoples that undermine the dignity and rights of women and particularly those that oppress women. Fiji is experiencing an increasing number of sex-related crimes. Rape tops the list of crimes in the Fiji High Courts. High Court Judge Justice Salesi Temo stated that our courts are becoming a ‘rape court’. Most of the victims of sex-related crimes are women. Fijian society urgently needs to be made aware of and protect the dignity of women, girls and children.

Our Fijian cultures (Itaukei, Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, Rotuman, Rabi etc.) should all promote the dignity of women and in some cases liberate women. Most of our cultures and religions are patriarchal – dominated by men. Patriarchal society views men as the standard of human nature and that women are somehow different and inferior. A patriarchal society denies its people the contribution and wisdom of women. In other words, our society, religions, and churches will be less human without women. Pope Francis said, “A world where women are marginalized is a sterile world, because women don’t just bear life but transmit to us the ability to see otherwise, they see things differently. They transmit to us the ability to understand the world with different eyes, to understand things with hearts that are more creative, more patient, more tender.”

The patriarchal view of women clashes with the biblical teaching that all human beings, male and female are created in the image of God. As believers, we have to promote the biblical teachings on the equality of men and women and particularly affirm the dignity of women. The biblical view of women calls for a conversion in our religions, Churches and cultures. We have to change the patriarchal views of society and recognize women as equally made in the image of God. We have to include women in decision making. Our Churches and religions need to examine our sexist and discriminatory attitude towards women.

May the International Day of Women be a time for liberation of the women in Fiji.

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