Religious violence relates to harmful religious traditions and practices as they encourage oppressive power over individuals or a community. Various religions or traditions use different practices, such as reading sacred texts, constructing theology or doctrines for faith formation, and nurturing people’s relation with the Divine and the community. However, hermeneutical interpretation and the praxis of these traditions may become sources of oppression and harm to women. Religious violence portrays images of women’s subordination, which affect their identity as they internalize the oppression. Religious practices and traditions play a double role as liberating and yet oppressive to women. How do women survive the paradoxical position of religious traditions? A few insights from the readings can be a starting point of reflection and action towards resisting/deconstructing harmful practices and re-constructing new traditions for women’s liberation.
First, it is crucial to disclose harmful hermeneutical reading of the sacred texts and re-reading them by centering and uplifting women’s voices from the texts themselves as empowerment for women today. Veenat Arora and Anil Kumar Mishra show examples of interpretations of sacred texts that nurture patriarchal power over women in Christian and Islam practices. Although the situation might have changed due to the work of feminist, womanist, and Mujerista movements for many years, these oppressive practices continue in religious traditions, academia, and daily lives. However, Amnon Shapira proposes that sacred texts, such as the Bible, although they might be known for their patriarchal means, can also “support a tendency toward equality—and sometimes, even superiority—of woman over man.” (Shapira, 10). An emphasis on the later practice is critical to face the ambiguity of sacred texts’ interpretation. It is essential to deconstruct biblical texts’ understandings that perpetuate violence and re-read them by uplifting women’s voices in the texts as an alternative to challenge the patriarchal understanding.
Thus, I support Valerie Miles-Tribble, who calls for the churches/religious institutions, congregants, and leaders’ accountability to re-read Christian biblical texts using liberative womanist lenses from the “perspectives of the underside.” (Valerie Miles-Tribble, 179). It is crucial to raise awareness and deconstruct certain traditions that become normative to religious practices, such as “the presuppositions of patriarchy” in biblical texts (Valerie Miles-Tribble, 195). And religious institutions and leaders may intentionally develop methods from re-reading the sacred texts to liberate women from patriarchal relegation.
Moreover, it is essential to revisit theological grounding and re-construct rituals or traditions aiming at women’s liberation. Diaz-Isaisi, highlights, from the Hispanas/Latinas’ experience, the understanding of “theology as praxis—a reflection-action with the struggle for liberation-fullness of life.” (Diaz-Isaisi, 240-241). The praxis focuses on relationships and mutuality with Jesucristo and the people, the “familia de Dios” (Diaz-Isaisi, 263). The support of one another, women and men, is essential in this relationship. From the Jewish feminists’ perspectives, Lana Sirri also highlights the various supports and opportunities among women. One of them is to engage a “new model of education for girls and women” to develop new theological methods to confront hierarchical power. (Lana Sirri, 48)
These few examples and efforts from various religious traditions show some commonalities and diversities of methods to confront religious violence that impacts women’s flourishing. One commonality is the need to re-reading the Scriptures to challenge the continued violence against women. Furthermore, it is also essential to note the various opportunities, diverse forms of awareness, and praxis aiming for women’s liberation that is crucial to challenging religious violence.
Antler, Joyce. “Women’s Liberation and Jewish Feminism after 1968: Multiple Pathways to Gender Equality.” American Jewish History 102, no. 1 (2018): 37–58. https://doi.org/ 10.1353/ajh.2018.0003.
Smith, Mitzi J. “Race, Gender, and the Politics of ‘Sass’:” Womanist Interpretations of the Bible, 2016, 95–112. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1h1htgx.9.
Arcot Krishnaswami, Study of discrimination in the matter of religious rights and practices, New York, 1960