Catholic academics and activists at a forum in Kuala Lumpur say women should be given a greater role, not just within society, but also in the Church. It also called for the rights of migrant workers to be respected. More than 25 young Catholics from across Asia were discussing gender and migrant issues at a April 22nd - May 1 Youth Social Awareness Training Program, jointly organized by Pax Romana-ICMICA, South Korea’s Woori Theology Institute and Malaysia’s Community Action Network. Much of the discussions, which also involved the performing of sketches to highlight their points, centered on the need for the Church to bring about changes regarding the position of women within its ranks; for it to promote women’s rights in society as a whole; and for it to fight for legal measures to protect the rights of migrant workers and to avoid problems caused by illegal practices. The imposition or glorification of oppressive and gender biased cultural traditions and religious practices was widely seen as a major obstacle for women. With regard to the Church, “reinterpretations of scriptural doctrines using a feministic approach to incorporate women leaders in the Church are strongly recommended” – a forum statement said. To help overcome other areas of concern, the Church was urged to utilize the zeal, energy and intellectual capacity of youths, and let them raise their voices against politically and economically driven issues and their detrimental influence on human rights. Interfaith dialogue to rethink to arrive at some common ground to protect human rights was also strongly recommended. Lawrencia Kwark, secretary General of the ICMICA called on participants to use their skills and knowledge to work for better conditions for women and migrants in context of their own societies. Uttam Doninic Gomes, a Bangladeshi university lecturer, said major issues concerning migrant works could be addressed in more effective ways. “I am going to speak to priests and ask them to organize awareness programs in their parishes to provide people seeking employment overseas with as much information as possible before they apply to go to any country.” Bindu Shilakar, who works with World Vision International in Nepal, said Nepalese women are making gains slowly and their participation at the decision-making level is increasing, but more still needs to be done. Catholic organizations have an important role to play in this, she said. ML14052
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