The International Association of Liberal Religious Women, a branch of the IARF and one of the oldest interfaith women’s organizations in the world (founded in 1910), co-organized an interfaith seminar in Malaysia on 7-8 February. The seminar brought together women from Malaysia, Yemen, Myanmar, Cashmere, Sri Lanka, Japan and Europe, and included two public sessions: “Plight of Domestic Helpers: Interfaith Perspectives” and “Conflict and War: Direct Accounts.”
Rev. Esther R. Suter, IALRW Vice-President from Switzerland, summed up the sessions as follows:
Domestic helpers is a crucial topic in Malaysia with
mainly women (“maids”) coming from Indonesia, often immigrants without a legal status or documents. Faith communities such as Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian (Roman-Catholic) Sikh and Taoist exposed the situation and presented their approach on a spiritual as well as social, moral and communitarian level.
Although the women gathered in Kuala Lumpur had a variety of approaches, presented separately, they managed to formulate firm recommendations to be addressed to the government, for training, support and protection of workers; regulation of agencies providing staff; and fostering right relationships with workers within families, respecting them as human beings.
The topic “Conflict and War: direct accounts” was presented by four IIUM students. They came from Burma, Yemen, Kashmir and Syria. With the exception of the student from Kashmir, they all presented conflict situations involving Muslims and another faith group and exposed the political conflict as an intentionally created religious conflict, which exploits religions for political and power strategies.
Here you can read the full report by Rev. Suter published at oikumene.org, and here her more detailed account of the stories told by four participants of the seminar: women from Myanmar, Yemen, Cashmere and Malaysia from protestinfo.ch (in French).