Is Christianity an inherently feminine religion?

Equality in the world religionsThe subordinate sex

"Women can make an important contribution to change in all parts of society and in all religions. This also applies to us in Judaism. Today even interreligious documents confirm the rights and dignity of women. But there is still a deep gap between theory and Practice, "says Sharon Rosen, who works for equality in Judaism.

"I read the Bible in such a way that it has the vision of a just coexistence of men and women. We are miles away from that in Christianity, but not only there. I believe, however, that the number of people who discover this will increase . I hope that helps, "says the Protestant theologian Petra Bosse-Huber.

"The struggle for emancipation today does not take place between men and women, but between modern people and arch-conservatives. In all religions there are people who think women have no rights. Those who think liberally, on the other hand, recognize one for women in texts like the Koran liberating power. We can encourage one another in different cultures, "says the Islamic theologian Nayla Tabarra.

In Hinduism, women were considered equal - 3,000 years ago

In almost all world religions women have to struggle for recognition. This is true in Buddhism as well as in Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or Judaism. While religious scriptures often extol the qualities of women, gender equality is an unfulfilled dream in most denominations.

This was not always the case, on the contrary, explains the Indian Hindu scholar Bharti Taylor: "The position of women in Hinduism was once high. They were treated with respect and were educated. We even know that women wrote parts of the Vedic scriptures Yes, back then, that is more than 3,000 years ago, men and women were considered equal in Hinduism. "

Sarasvati, the goddess of music, adorns a monastery dedicated to her in western India (Deutschlandradio / Antje Stiebitz)

But in the course of history that has changed fundamentally, regrets the sociologist: Hinduism was gradually used as an instrument to oppress women, and not only in India.

"Patriarchal societies have formed, and we women were left behind. We were no longer allowed to study, lead prayers and only played a subordinate role in every respect. After all, goddesses still stood on the pedestal, but we women became Treated poorly every day.

Only recently has there been a renewed rethinking: women are now increasingly accepted in management positions, emphasizes Bharti Taylor. She herself lives in England today and a few years ago was the first woman to be elected chairman of the European Hindu Forum.

"Today women are studying again, they are reading the scriptures, and we even have Hindu priestesses in many countries who preside over weddings or other ceremonies. This applies to England as well as to India. We women still have to overcome some prejudices, but we are closing slowly returning to the old tradition of Hinduism. "

In all cultures today women are rediscovering the liberating power of their religions. The Canadian Marie-Josée Tardif knows that a look at indigenous traditions can also open up important perspectives. She has indigenous ancestors:

"In our religion we see man and woman as equal, but different. A woman has a lot of power in her, but it is not the same power that a man has. Woman and man are complementary, they complement each other. That is why men work for us and women always together in religious ceremonies. "

Marie-Josée and her husband run the organization "Together" in Canada. Her goal is a reconciliation between indigenous and western cultures, between women and men, between "Mother Earth" and "Father Heaven":

"For us, 'Mother Earth' stands for feminine energy. It is the counterpart to 'Father Heaven'. Everyone needs these two dimensions in order to become truly human. Male religious representatives often only look at heaven, looking to the hereafter and forget the earth, the human. But we have to feel our anchoring in the earth, we need the feminine, the roots. "

Representatives of indigenous groups during the papal mass (AFP / Tiziana Fabi)

However, in some western circles there are great reservations about the ancient wisdom of indigenous religions. In 2019 this became clear during the so-called "Amazon Synod" in the Vatican. Jesuits had brought wooden figures of "Mother Earth" - the "Pacha Mama" - made in the Amazon with them to Rome: They symbolically show a pregnant woman and in South America they stand for the life-giving power of nature and the feminine. A right-wing Catholic activist threw them into the Tiber and filmed the crime for social media. Pope Francis officially apologized a little later in his responsibility as "Bishop of Rome" that something like this could happen in "his city".

With the Spaniards, the patriarchal principle came to the Philippines

The Tutzing Benedictine Missionary Mary John teaches in the Philippine capital Manila at an institute for women's rights and reports:

"Before the Spaniards occupied the Philippines in the 16th century, we women were on an equal footing with men. At that time, girls were brought up just as freely and independently as boys. We didn't know the ideal of virginity. The Catholic Spaniards were appalled by so much freedom of movement and introduced the patriarchal principle to us. We were re-educated in the Philippines and de facto restricted and patronized as women. "

And not only that, so the Filipino woman. To this day, the consequences of the patriarchal power principle are often called: oppression, discrimination and sexualised violence. In Manila, the Benedictine Sisters run a house where abused women find shelter. At the same time, Marie-John emphasizes:

"We don't see men as enemies. We emphasize that again and again. Rather, we want to work with them. Men can also be feminists."

But first a man has to understand the division of roles between the sexes, which has grown over the centuries, says the theologian. It is therefore offering a training program in Manila that is specifically aimed at men. There are also priests and religious among the participants, who come from all over Asia.

Mary John says: "We help these men to understand why they are macho against their social background. And then we ask them whether they feel comfortable in this role or whether they could develop a different image of themselves think the men like these courses because they often feel overwhelmed in the role of macho. It is not for nothing that some drink too much alcohol or are violent. "

In an interreligious working group, the professor worked with like-minded people from other religions in Southeast Asia to develop a "liberation theology" for women. The Catholic Church should finally set a good example, demands the lecturer, and give women equal access to spiritual offices.

"In the Philippines, many men worship the Madonna, but they beat their own wives. And of course we have no ordination of women. The Church has a very long way to go before it can say that it treats women as equals. This would mean women Definitely do some things better in the church hierarchy. In Manila it is we religious who give the church the power to persuade. Without us, the church would have long since lost all credibility in the face of so many scandals. "

The feminine virtue of patience

In Catholic and Orthodox churches, the office of priestess or bishop is still taboo today. In Protestant churches, the pastoral profession began to be gradually opened up to women around 50 years ago. In 1999, Germany's first evangelical bishop was elected. Today's Bishop of the EKD abroad, Petra Bosse-Huber, sums up:

"We've got a lot under our feet in the last few decades when it comes to questions of equality. But we're still a long way from realizing this potential."

Women's festival at the Evangelical Church Congress 2017 in Wittenberg (imago stock & people)

Petra Bosse-Huber hopes that one of the keys to progress is patience. She comes into contact with representatives of many cultures and with their prejudices:

"These are often so persistent images that exist in people's minds. But I believe that if you then seriously experience women who fill this position, that image will also change. And when I read Paul and there it is 'There are neither men nor women here, neither free nor slaves', then I can only understand this as a single call for equality. And in this respect, this vision is completely clear to me from a biblical point of view. "

The practice of women's ordination sends an important signal in a society and fundamentally promotes respect for women, emphasizes the Anglican Agnes Aboum. The historian from Kenya was elected as the first woman to moderate the World Council of Churches in Geneva in 2013:

"I am grateful for my election into this office, which was only possible after many women fought for leadership positions - in and outside of the World Council of Churches. I see my office as a service. We have to empower women all over the world through good education and they in this way help to obtain adequate positions. It is important in every way. "

Mohammed and the social revolution

Education is a key to empowering women around the world, Nayla Tabbara is also convinced. The Islamic theologian has set up an institute for women's rights in the Lebanese capital Beirut, the Adyan Foundation.

Nayla Tabbara: "The subordinate position that women have in Islam today is not the position that the Prophet Mohammad intended for them. On the contrary. He carried out a kind of revolution in the society of that time, which also affected the social role of women Women then prayed with the men in the mosque and participated in public discussions. The Prophet urged women to learn to read and write. We even know that some manuscripts of the Koran were written by women. But after the death of the Prophets, the old Arab tribal mentality reappeared in many places and women had to subordinate themselves again. "

The veil is the best example, according to the Lebanese professor: According to the prophet's will, only women of noble origin should wear it as a symbol of rank. But in later centuries the veil was often used to keep women in their place.

"In the Koran, man and woman are essentially equal according to creation. Because both descend from one soul. Even more: This soul has a grammatically feminine nature. That is crucial! Muslim feminists therefore say: We must start from equality, which is assigned to men and women in creation, and on this basis many passages in the Koran are reinterpreted. "

Feminists like Nayla Tabarra have little say in mosques. Only in isolated cases, for example in Morocco, are women allowed to exercise functions similar to imams and to lead prayers. At universities, however, Muslim women scholars persistently gain freedom in many places:

"That's why interreligious work is important to me. Open-minded people can encourage one another."

Man and woman - the two wings of a bird

In the 19th century, the Baha'i reform movement emerged in Persian Islam. Her prophet Bahaullah promoted social equality for women. But his modern ideas met with a lot of resistance in the Orient at that time.

The Baha'i were brutally persecuted at times. Many felt compelled to leave their Muslim homeland. Saba Khabipour is General Secretary of the Spiritual Council of the Baha'i in Germany. Regarding the role of women, she still sees her religion as exemplary:

"It is even said that if a family does not have the opportunity to give all children the same education, girls enjoy preference. Because ultimately they play a primary role in the area of ​​upbringing. The relationship between man and woman is one Relationship that children experience first. And if this relationship is not characterized by equality, it carries on into international relations. "

For this reason, according to Saba Khabipour, women are also of particular importance for peace work. From the point of view of the Baha'i, men and women should complement each other on all levels:

"There is a very beautiful picture in the Baha'i scriptures that man and woman are compared with the two wings of a bird. And only when both wings are equally strong, when they work together, can the bird of humanity soar up and its destiny get to really fly. "

The Bahai World Center in Haifa, Israel (Deutschlandradio / Tim Bieler)

Today the international center of the Baha'i is in Israel, in Haifa. Sharon Rosen lives further south, in Jerusalem. She is married to an Orthodox rabbi and heads an international secular peace organization: "Search for common ground". In Judaism, many women are currently trying to redefine their role, says Rosen. It is now quite normal in reform-oriented circles to ordain women as rabbis.

Ordination of women - a matter of course and provocation in Judaism

Sharon: "In Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism, women are generally not yet able to lead churches. However, there have also been individual rabbis who have ordained women - in America as well as in Israel. Often, however, the traditional idea that there is space prevails a woman is in private and not in public. "

In the end, women today are concerned with interpreting "sacred texts" such as the Torah in a contemporary way, thinks Sharon Rosen. That requires just as much experience as patience.

"If you look at the Torah, you will see that women have important positions there: Sarah tells Abraham what to do. So we have models that give us the opportunity to understand some things in new ways. Many modern Jewish women have studied . That is crucial. Thanks to their knowledge, they are now able to discuss with men on an equal footing and can claim their position on the basis of the sacred texts. "

Religious women are also breaking new ground in Buddhism: In Thailand, on the outskirts of the capital Bangkok, the Koster Songdhammakalyani is located. It is run by a woman: Venerable Dhammananda.

She is the first Thai woman who can refer to a fully valid ordination as a Buddhist nun: Dhammananda is Bikkhuní, the female counterpart to Bikkhú, the Buddhist monk, with equal rights and duties:

"In Buddhism there are two directions: Theravada and Mahayana. In Mahayana women are ordained as nuns without any problems. But in Theravada it is different with us in Thailand. Here we Buddhists fight a similar fight as some women in the Catholic Church, where there is none There are women ordination. But we at least have support in history: Buddha ordained women. "

Buddha's aunt - the first Buddhist nun

Nevertheless, for centuries, Thai Buddhists were only allowed to serve as Mae Chi, lay helper with vows, in male monasteries. Any attempt by women to achieve legal equality was rejected by the monks as "presumption":

"We women had to catch up with historical tradition in order to prove that we too could receive valid ordination. We had to walk the path back to Buddha, a long way of 2,500 years. But we know that Buddha is in India Aunt ordained, she was the first Buddhist nun, and in the 3rd century BC Indian nuns brought women ordination to Sri Lanka.

Here was the key: In 2001, Dhammananda went to the island in the Indian Ocean and received a valid ordination as a nun. Now she is allowed to wear the orange robe in Thailand, which was previously reserved for monks, to lead religious ceremonies and a monastery.

The Buddhist, who also teaches religious studies at the University of Bangkok, has set up an international meditation center there.

"The problems we have with the ordination of women in Thailand are a result of culture. We women have to fight and be patient here. But the situation does not reflect the true spirit of Buddhism."

Azza Karam at the tenth "Religions for Peace" world conference in Lindau, 2019 (imago images / Christian Thiel)

The position of women in religions has long moved the world's largest interreligious dialogue platform: the "World Conference of Religions for Peace" - "Religions for Peace". It was founded in Japan in 1970. At their last general assembly in Lindau on Lake Constance in 2019, there was a small sensation: the almost 1,000 international delegates from all faiths elected a woman for the first time in history as their new general secretary and thus the highest spokeswoman for all world religions: the Muslim Azza Karam.

"The religious leaders who chose me as a woman were very brave and far-sighted. They are men and women who want change around the world. And I think they hope that choice can have a positive impact on change."