Liberal and religious? Now where does the twain meet? The International Association of Liberal Religious Women, a women's conclave, recently celebrated its 100th year in Kochi.

On the sidelines of the more attended International Association for Religious Freedom meet in Kochi, another body was holding its 33rd Congress to mark its 100th year of existence: The International Association of Liberal Religious Women.

Social justice

Liberal and religious? Now where does the twain meet?

“It's a global women's association which works for social and economic justice for women and also for peace,” says its newly elected vice-president, Margaret Miller Kanada, who is a professor in Japan. “We are religious, but we are also liberal. Usually, in any part of the world, religious women are too traditional, old fashioned and keep to themselves. We want women to be emancipated and empowered, while retaining their religious beliefs,” she points out. Perhaps this is the reason why, in spite of its existence for 100 years, there are just 300-odd members from a handful of countries. Though there were around 40 participants at the Congress, the membership is thin. They are not fiery feminists. They prefer to go at a slow pace.

Their activities have so far been limited to funding projects, holding meets, greening drives and striving in their own way to bring about social and economic justice. “Education opens up all sorts of avenues to women. So we fund educational projects to help uplift women. Once they are educated, every kind of emancipation follows as well as sustainable livelihood. Women from all faiths are welcome to join, even non-believers if they belief in some ideology,” laughs Margaret.

Many women from Karnataka and Kerala have shown an interest in the body, feels Margaret. At the Congress which marked 100 years of its presence, there was something called peace education. Training of children in yoga and traditions including life skills form part of this. Another subject that the members are learning and teaching is conflict resolution skills. Dialogues can replace violence if experts in this subject deal with a lot of issues in the world, hopes Margaret. Even bullying in schools and domestic violence come under this as also happenings in bigger dimensions, including political happenings. Peace as the end result is what the International Association of Liberal Religious Women hopes for, apart from gender equality in several spheres.

What if you want to be a member? Just go to their website (www.ialrw.org) and register by filling in the application for IALRW membership and go for the next Congress a few years hence. “The fee is very small for those in developing countries,” adds Margaret.

If a member feels there is some project which deserves assistance, she can recommend it to the organisation.