Arab Anglican conference empowers women, says organizer

Published October 9, 2008

The second Arab Anglican Women’s Convention held in Amman in early October was an important way to unite and empower women from the Anglican diocese of Jerusalem, says Shawfeeqa Dawani, co-ordinator of the event.The diocese of Tokyo in Japan, which wanted to learn more about Jerusalem after one of its members attended the first convention in October 2007, financed the gathering.Twenty-five Arab Anglican women from Jerusalem, the West Bank, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan took part in the conference. Seventeen members of the Tokyo diocese, including five men, also attended.”As the bishop’s wife I feel [a] responsibility to let the outside world know about our women; that there are educated Christian women,” said Ms. Dawani, who is married to Jerusalem Bishop Suheil Dawani.She added that these women do not always fit into the classical Arab stereotype of a dependent housewife, who comes from a violent, barbaric society.She explained that the two conventions were not meant to neglect or exclude men but to help men and women learn how to complement each other. Unlike some women in the West, Ms. Dawani said, she would not find it offensive if a man held a door open for her.She noted that after working with women as a priest’s wife for 30 years before her husband became bishop, she had sensed the need for women to have leadership training and learn communication skills, and began planning to implement her goals.”Women were shy to say a prayer in a loud voice or speak in front of a group,” she said. “They didn’t even know each other.”In addition to providing an opportunity for women to pray together and share their stories and cultures, the conference allowed women of the Jerusalem diocese to get to know each other since travel between the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Galilee is difficult and does not allow for frequent contact, noted Ms. Dawani.”Sharing our experiences [with the Japanese visitors] was very fruitful,” said Hana Kirreh, 39, director of the Jerusalem women’s leadership training and communication skills committee. “We felt that there is a part of Japanese history which is very sad in their lives and they have suffered something similar to our history.”Faten Saadeh, 45, said the networking which the conference enabled was important, and noted that even older women who had never used the Internet were eager to learn about email in order to keep up contact with the other women they had met at the conference.Ms. Dawani said she hoped another convention would be held in 2009. She is also keen gradually to expand the meetings into ecumenical women’s gatherings within the other Christian churches, as well as inter-faith meetings with Muslim and Jewish women.


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