The task of awareness raising and training for overcoming the unjust and unequal relationships between men and women has joined together the Women and Gender Program of the Council of Churches of Cuba (CIC) and the Women and Gender Justice Pastoral Ministry of the national table of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) on the island, in a strategic way for reaching the largest number of people possible.
According to the Rev. Raquel Suárez, the program is giving continuity to the suggestions arising out of the Ecumenical Gathering of biblical-theological and pastoral reflection from the perspective of the reality of women, held last November at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas.
Several formation workshops have been carried out during the first quarter of this year, in conjunction with other ecumenical organizations, for the purpose of combining efforts, knowledge and resources so as to be better able to involve more lay leaders and pastors of the member churches of CIC and the CLAI national table.
These efforts are also being recognized and supported by the Christian Institute of Gender Studies and the “Oscar Arnulfo Romero” Reflection and Solidarity Group.
“Our thematic axis of the year,” said Suárez, a pastor of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba, “is the overcoming of intra-family and social gender violence, seen from daily experiences, biblical-theological reflection, the social sciences and a transforming pastoral ministry.”
The workshops, which have been held in various provinces of the country, have brought together women and men from a broad spectrum of denominations, with the intention of enriching a family pastoral ministry growing out of the reality of the Christian communities.
“Violence occurs on many occasions in a subtle way and is manifested in multiple forms, from physical aggression to psychological abuse, and originates in the unjust and unequal relationships of power among the members of the family and the society,” Suárez said.
“In Jesus of Nazareth we have an alternative in the conception of the terms of power and authority as a practice of service and love toward our neighbor. Thus, it becomes our paradigm of being human in terms of the essential aspects such as love, respect and dignity, transgressing all practice or law that separates, oppresses, excludes or condemns. The biblical texts offer us the opportunity to see God acting in favor of the weakest in situations of family violence and the patriarchal system, manifested in the history of Israel, and how those conflicts were faced. Analyzing them in their historical-cultural context helps us to discern the liberating and normative Word.”
Suárez added that the workshops have revealed that in the programs for women, men and the family in the churches, these themes are not always considered, nor are biblical texts that can alert to such situations of intra-family and social violence read.
“We know of women heroines like Sara, Miriam, Esther, Judith, Mary, Jesus’ mother, Martha and Mary, but we do not make others principal characters whose names are not even remembered,” she pointed out.
“So we have also taken into account the history of the daughters of Zelophehad; Queen Vashti; Tamar, the daughter of David sexually violated by her half-brother Amnon; the Syrophoenician woman; the children wanted to be kept away from Jesus’ teachings; and to the women of the communities of Timothy and Titus, condemned to silence and submission to their husbands, among many, and other different stories.
“From all of this it becomes apparent that the authority of the male and of the woman in the home should be based on the model and the conception that Jesus had of power. We are not to confuse the power that ‘the kings and rulers who lord it over, and dominate the nations and the peoples’ practice when establishing family, interpersonal and social relationships; because Jesus told us: ‘among us it will not be like that. The greatest is the one who serves, who loves neighbor as he/she loves him or herself, the one that suffers, the one that gives his/her life for the friend…
“The first space where we are to build the Kingdom is in the home and the family, something that we sometimes forget or which is difficult for us,” Suárez said.