Gender Equality and Conflict Resolution

March 10, 2007 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Day 4: Saturday, 10 March 2007, Laura | 1 Comment

Gender Equality
AKA Goal #3 was the focus of this morning’s program. I’ve never really invested myself in this goal. It’s my own issues, I know. The very word “feminism” makes me want to puke quite frankly. I have had some experience of people in my life from years ago that made me turn my nose up to the way people (in my experience it was mainly women) talked about feminism. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I’ve had a mental block about it every sense. Today however that block was cleared in my mind, and for that I am grateful. We had a speaker talk about gender equality and what that means to us as Christians engaging in the MDG’s. It was all well and good. And I completely understand how ignorant I am of what women in other cultures have to endure in order to survive in this world. So I listened and appreciated what she had to say. However, the part that really enticed me, where I sat up and thought, “Wait a minute! This makes sense to me” was after her speech when people started to comment on what she had said. And an interesting thing was brought up about Gender Equality: A wise person in the room said, “gender” does not mean “woman.” This began a waterfall of comments based on gender equality being a relationship between men and women.

My new pal Jesse Dymond, a young adult from Canada who has been stalking me due to our shared border (this is a joke if you don’t catch the sarcasm over the internet) made the best point during the discussion in my mind: Not only do we need to be empowering women, we need to educate our men. In my and Jesse’s part of the world, women and men for the most part have the same equal rights and relationships. However, the mentality of men and women has not really changed so much. We need to educate men and women how to raise each other up, support each other, communicate with each other. We do not need women who are upset, angry, and/or mad at the world because they don’t think men treat them equally. We need to teach men how to communicate before violence, how to respect women without pitying them, how to empower women without disempowering men. We need to talk about gender equality including men and women.  We need women who approach such topics with a nurturing and supportive attitude. Who will take steps to acheive educating both sexes on what it means to communicate, what it means to support, and what it means to love one another? Then we need men on the other side of the relationship to engage with women on these things. I’m butchering what Jesse said, but I’m going to try to get him to write a post about it. (For those of you at TEAM reading this, be sure to let him know that the Anglican internet world wants to know more!)

On to Conflict Resolution

Now as if that wasn’t enough for my brain to handle, following lunch I met a man who has started to change my life. As embarrassed as I am to write some of this I am going to pour my heart out in this entry. When I first met him it was on a bus on the way back from our initial Eucharist, I thought to myself “Who let this man on our bus? He obviously does not belong with our group.” I was ashamed immediately and sat directly behind him on the ride back. I asked myself why did I think such a thought. It wasn’t that I didn’t like this man. In fact quite the opposite. He reminded me of a dear friend of mine whom I love back home, Charlie Parr. If I had to be brutally honest and offending I would have to say that the reason I thought such things was because this man had a scraggly sort of beard, one fake eye, things in his ears I assumed to help him hear, and hooks for both hands. I actually thought the man to be homeless when I saw him. I took a picture of him later on because I wanted to show Charlie the picture of this man who reminded me of him. (This man did not know I took his picture, I just sort of did it) So today after lunch we went into general assembly and sure enough there he was, sitting on the speaker row about to present his material.

Some of you may know this man. You may have read books about his story, you may have heard some of the many media things that were done about him. His name is the Rev. Michael Lapsley. He is the executive director for the Institute for Healing of Memories. If you don’t know him, look him up. He is unbelievable: Not only is he amazing because he is a rights activist who had his hands, eyes, and ears blown apart by a letter bomb in
South Africa after the release of Nelson Mandela, he is amazing because of the way he uses his experience to talk about destructive memories versus redemptive memories. The bible talks about redemptive memories, war and hatred use destructive memories. Redemptive memories have us identify that good that has come out of the bad. Destructive memories are the things grandparents hang onto and teach grandchildren to hate and destroy due to the poision of the memories. He discussed the two steps of changing from distructive to redemptive. Step #1 Acknowledge the wrongdoing. Step #2 Begin the healing. Saying “I’m sorry” is the first step to healing and changing for the positive. There are also two ways an indvidual goes after expereincing a horrific event. They either become victims who become victimizers using their experience to justify the vicimizations (USA’s response to 9-11 he pointed out). Or, the victimized become survivors, then in turn become victors.

He went on to further tell us his story by stating how interesting it is that people always comment to him what a wonderful example of forgiveness he is. When in fact, he never mentions anything about forgiveness in his personal story. You see, Father Michael does know that the bomb was some how politically related. He knows that it was done deliberately towards him. What he does not know is who in fact mailed the bomb. So there is no one person to forgive. However, he did end his story by saying if the bomber were ever to show up on his door step and say “I’m sorry, I’m the person who mailed you the letter bomb, will you forgive me?” Father Michael would first ask if the person is still mailing bombs. Then he would ask what this person is now up to in their life. Perhaps this person is working in a hospital. If this person is working in a hospital then Father Micheal would want him to continue to do so. He would not want the person locked in jail where no good is being done anyway. Father Michael preaches about justice not being in the form of revenge. He went on with this story but no words I could write would do it justice. I will be suffice to say here that if this story intrigues you then ask me about it at a later time when I am better able to formulate words around it.

I want to also add here that besides the obvious, the reason I really love this man is because of the way he talks so openly and honestly about things in the world that he feels are unjust. Particuarly at this conference he mentioned in passing more the once the issue of same-sex love and the hurt relgious leaders are inflicting upon people of same-sex oreintation. Every time he mentioned it the air got thick. As if that weren’t enough he actually went on after he was done telling his story and his thoughts on conflict resolution about the subject. He stated that he really feels the most important part to come out of Lambeth’s last gathering was the resolution to start to listen to gays and lesbians tell thier stories. He openly thanked the Bishops who were supportive of this resolution and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa which has undergone an excellent listening process. He encouraged the Anglican Church to vomit out the poison of the hurt on both sides to one another, and then take the life giving lessons from it. He ended this portion by saying “Let’s create the Anglican Church to be one where people say ‘I’m here because I was not judged and people listend to my story.'” The room was paralyzed for a moment I think in fear that someone on either side was going to lay into this comment. But nobody did. Everyone took a deep breath and nodded. And as if God had planned it himself, the next comment was a man who was very upset and hurt about everything going on between the USA and Iraq, he went on and on about how do we change this, what do we do now, how come all of this has to happen etc., etc., etc.

Father Michael walked up to the microphone, said thanks for the comment, and then in a short sweet sharp sentence said “I think the US in Iraq because of oil” and walked back to his seat. It was the most honest thing I’ve ever seen a presenter do. And probably against social norms, I laughed out loud.


1 Comment »

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  1. Hi Laura,
    greetings and blessings to you!
    Thankyou for your fantastic post – it really does sound like a life-giving experience. Michael Lapsley in particular sounded most inspiring. Us NZers like to claim him as our own, but he really is a treasure of the whole Communion.

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