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The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health & Ethics


Religious Consultation Report

News & Views from
The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics

May 1999

 

Page One: Historic Meeting on "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions" Set for July in Philadelphia
Article 2: Religious Consultation News
Article 3: Religion, the United Nations and the "Cairo+5" Process
Article 4: De-feudalizing Islam: Change and Reform in the Muslim World
Article 5: Movers and Shakers: Tracking the Activities of Our Participating Scholars

Page One

Historic Meeting on "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions" Set for July in Philadelphia

The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics will host a historic meeting this summer in Philadelphia when a group of distinguished international scholars gather for the first of two conferences on "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions." This unique project is being funded through a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The unhelpful aspects of world religions in matters of fertility and gender roles are well known and often believed to be the one and only orthodoxy. However, there are neglected resources within the religious traditions themselves which can justify, on religious grounds, the moral right to family planning, including contraception and abortion. It is these resources the Consultation project hopes to uncover and disseminate so that more progressive religious views of family planning, contraception and abortion can assert themselves in the ongoing international debates.

The scholars gathered for this project include: Mary C. Churchill, an expert on Native American studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder; Christine E. Gudorf, a Catholic scholar in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Florida International University; Riffat Hassan, a Muslim scholar at the University of Louisville; Ge Ling Shang of the Harvard-Yenching Institute; Ping-chen Hsiung, Division of Cultural and Intellectual History at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan; Sandhya Jain, an Indian journalist; Beverly Harrison of Union Theological Seminary; Jacob K. Olupona of the Department of African and African American Studies, University of California-Davis; Daniel C. Maguire, President of the Religious Consultation and Professor of Theology at Marquette University; Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal; Parichart Suwanbubbha, a Lecturer in the Department of Humanities at Mahidol University, Nakornpathom, Thailand; and Laurie Zoloth, Chair, Social Ethics and Jewish Studies, Program in Jewish Studies, San Francisco State University.

Four scientists/social scientists will join the project to keep the religious scholars fully abreast of the demographic and medical/scientific aspects of the subject. They are: Dr. Jose Barzelatto, Vice President, Center for Health and Social Policy in San Francisco; Anrudh Jain, a demographer who specializes in contraception and fertility issues at the Population Council in New York; Dr. Oyin Sodipe, a physician and Deputy Director of the Ogun State Ministry of Health in Nigeria, who has expertise in family planning practices in Africa; and Funmi Togonu-Bickesteth, Associate Professor of Social Psychology at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, Nigeria.

The scholarly papers which result from this consultation will be published first in an academic volume and then in a popular volume, which will be aimed at policymakers, population workers in the field, and at the general public. Translations of chapters of the popular volume into several non-English languages will follow. The findings will be disseminated as widely as possible through the print and broadcast media and over the Internet. The project's scholars will continue as a permanent task force to present briefings, engage the media, and contribute to policy debates here in the US, at the United Nations, and abroad.

This project on "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion" fits well with the Religious Consultation's overall goal of promoting the voices of progressive religious scholars on the issues of population, ecology, reproductive health and the empowerment of women. The following pages include updates on the Consultation's other ongoing projects. If you have questions or comments, please reach us via the numbers and addresses listed below.

Phone: 414/962-3166

Fax: 414/962-9248
Email: consultation@igc.org
Web: http://www.consultation.org/consultation

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Religious Consultation News


Religious Consultation Wins Consultative Status at the United Nations


The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics has been granted special consultative status by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. This coveted classification enables the Consultation to send representatives to ECOSOC sessions and to play a greater role in the discussions of ECOSOC and its affiliated bodies.

The powers of ECOSOC include: "to serve as the central forum for discussion of international economic and social issues of a global or inter-disciplinary nature and the formulation of policy recommendations on those issues addressed to Member States and to the U. N. system; to make or initiate studies and reports and make recommendations on international economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related matters; to promote respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with consultative status may send observers to public meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, which include the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Population and Development. NGOs with consultative status may also submit written statements and deliver public testimony relevant to the Council's work.

The Religious Consultation was founded in 1994 at the time if the U.N.'s International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. It is dedicated to promoting progressive religious views on the issues of population, reproductive health, women's rights and the environment. Although Religious Consultation members were accredited and participated in the Cairo conference and subsequent U.N. meetings in Beijing, Copenhagen and Istanbul, the newly won consultative status provides the Consultation with greater access to and wider opportunities for interaction with U.N. bodies.

"We are honored to be recognized by the Economic and Social Council in this way," said Consultation President Daniel Maguire. "We look forward to sharing our views and building coalitions with other progressive-minded NGOs."


Women's Sexuality Project Prepares Volume, Presents Findings


The Religious Consultation's "Good Sex" team held its second meeting in Amsterdam in July 1998, where the women scholars discussed drafts of their essays for the forthcoming volume, Good Sex: Feminist Religious Wisdom. Conversation was intense on topics including compulsory motherhood, the denial of women's pleasure, economic issues and colonialism, the human right to good sex, Buddhist teachings on leaving behind the body and more. The city of Amsterdam with its open attitudes toward sexuality proved the perfect venue.

The group agreed on the need to bring the insights of "good sex" into the religious education of children in tradition-specific as well as more generalized ways. It is time to empower girls in intergenerational conversations with the results of such research and invite them to ask and answer their own questions of meaning and value when it comes to sexuality.

A number of the team members participated in a panel discussion on "Good Sex: Women's Religious Wisdom on Sexuality" at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Orlando in November, with Patricia Beattie Jung of Loyola University-Chicago, presiding. Panelists included: Rebecca T. Alpert, Temple University in Philadelphia; Radhika Balakrishnan, Marymount Manhattan College in New York; Wanda Deifelt, Escola Superior de Teologia in Sao Leopoldo, Brazil; Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual in Silver Spring, Maryland; Grace Jantzen, University of Manchester in England; Suwanna Satha-Anand, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Discussion focused on how participants' minds have changed in the course of this work, what new ways we now have of seeing the fundamental issues at hand, and what next steps we envision for using this work in our own settings. It was, from all reports, a lively and engaging session with time for audience members to discuss the same questions and to pose their concerns to the panel.

Patricia Beattie Jung and Mary E. Hunt presented a joint paper entitled "Feminist Interreligious and Cross-Cultural Conversations about Good Sex" at the Society of Christian Ethics Annual Meeting in San Francisco in January, 1999. The focus of the paper was on the theo-ethical aspects of the work. Conclusions included stress on the importance of collegial rather than "lone ranger" approaches as well as emphasis on interreligious ethical reflection in light of pluralistic religious contexts.

With final editing of the manuscript at hand, an important stage of the "Good Sex" project is coming to completion. The team wishes to express its appreciation to the Religious Consultation and to encourage the formation of more such teams to tackle other critical topics.


"What Men Owe to Women" Project to Share Results, Publish Book


Scholars involved in the Religious Consultation's project on "What Men Owe to Women: Positive Resources From the World's Religions" will share some of their findings at two major conferences this year in the U.S. and abroad. Funding is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

John Raines of Temple University will lead a panel at the November meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston. The panel will include other "What Men Owe" participants, including Anantanand Rambachan of St. Olaf College, Christopher Jocks of the Native American Studies program at Dartmouth, Marvin Ellison of Bangor Theological Seminary, Farid Esack, a Muslim scholar and Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa, and Christine Gudorf of Florida International University.

"What Men Owe" participants will also present their findings in December at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town, South Africa. Professors Raines, Ellison and Esack will be joined by Tavivat Puntarigvivat of Mahidol University in Thailand and Benjamin Hubbard of the State University of California at Fullerton.

Meanwhile, the manuscript resulting from the "What Men Owe" consultations has been submitted to the State University of New York Press for publication. Later this year or early in 2000, SUNY Press is publishing Visions of a New Earth: Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption and Ecology, the product of the very first Religious Consultation project called "New Theology on Population, Consumption and Ecology."


Riffat Hassan Starts Group to Aid Pakistani Women


Riffat Hassan, chair of the Board of Directors of the Religious Consultation and a Muslim scholar based at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, has founded a new organization called the International Network for the Rights of Female Victims of Violence in Pakistan (INRFVVP).

Impetus for starting the organization came from a groundswell of outrage expressed after the broadcast of BBC and ABC documentary reports on the "honor killings" and maimings (through burning) of girls and women by their male relatives in Pakistan. The report, aired on "Nightline" in February, featured commentary by Asma Jahangir of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and Dr. Hassan, both of whom asserted that "honor killings," despite the perpetrators' attempts at justification, have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. They are related instead to a male-dominated, patriarchal mindset that many women's groups and young Muslims throughout the world are increasingly challenging in favor of a human rights-centered understanding of Islam.

Following the telecast of "Nightline," Dr. Hassan was flooded with Email, faxes and phone calls -- all from people motivated to do something to alleviate the brutality against Pakistani women. The idea of a network of concerned persons working together for the rights of female violence victims developed spontaneously out of the interchange between Dr.Hassan and those who communicated with her, and the INRFVVP was born. The network of students, scholars, businesspeople and activists has developed a committee structure and contacts within Pakistan who report on incidents of violence against women and girls.

INRFVVP's goals are twofold: to conduct international lobbying and raise consciousness about this violent oppression of women and to provide direct support to the victims, many of them in urgent need of medical care. The Network is now receiving weekly reports of shootings and burnings. It is estimated that there are 17,000 female burn victims in Pakistan alone.

To contact the Network, call 502/637-4090 or write to P.O. Box 17202, Louisville, KY 40217.


The Day of Six Billion: October 12, 1999


On October 12, 1999, the earth's population will reach 6 billion. Activist groups will use this historic event to raise public awareness about the social, economic and environmental effects of increasing human population. They also plan to lobby governments to fulfill commitments made at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo: to fund reproductive health, environmental, educational and economic development efforts worldwide.

The Cairo Program of Action called for: universal access to quality and affordable family planning and reproductive health services; broad measures to ensure gender equity and the empowerment of women; universal access to primary education. These are programs that, if funded properly, can improve the lives of billions of people and stabilize world population by mid-century.



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Religion, the United Nations and the "Cairo+5" Process

By Daniel C. Maguire

The U.N. International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 was revolutionary in a number of ways. The follow-up meeting, "Cairo Plus 5," in February 1999 at The Hague assessed the broken and kept promises of that revolution.

At The Hague meeting, Mahmoud Fathalla of Egypt summed up the good news of the Cairo movement. Cairo redefined reproductive ethics in woman-centered ways. It broke the silence on sex, on female genital mutilation (FGM, sometimes cynically called female circumcision), on violence against women, and on unsafe abortion. It dropped the Malthusian stress on numbers in population discussions and spoke of human welfare and the empowerment of women. With these in place, the numbers would more easily and surely take care of themselves.

Cairo also pioneered a new kind of partnership between civil society and national governments with the rise of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). These bands of citizens, including large numbers of women, have been growing in influence and represent the most promising flowering of democracy in a world of juggernaut corporations and the often overshadowed nation states that are increasingly liege to overwhelming corporate power. (Of the largest 100 economies in the world today, 50 are corporations. See David Korten's When Corporations Rule the World, Kumarian Press, 1995.) Given the ongoing eclipse of nations by the corporations, NGO power is the primary countervailing force.

YOUTH FORUM AT THE HAGUE

As president of the Religious Consultation, I was invited to the "Cairo+5" Conference in February. One of the most positive developments at The Hague conference was the institution of a Youth Forum. This is a notable extension of the NGO democratization process, and a timely one given the large demographic cloud that hung over the meeting; at this moment in history, the largest fertility class in the history of the world has arrived on the planet. Thus it was encouraging to see the world's youth facing the threat that their fertility and numbers present. One hundred and thirty-five young people -- starting at age 17 -- from 111 countries participated. They were given the usual U.N. simultaneous translation services and conducted their own affairs with vigor and good order. They fully understood the limits of growth on a finite planet. Interestingly, they were not as skittish about religion as are the U.N.'s main bodies. They cited the need for assistance from religious leaders while also suggesting their need to educate religious leaders to the real needs of youth today. They were not looking for a one-way dialogue. They also demanded equal status in the NGO deliberations and stated their intention to be an enduring and active presence in future U.N. activities.

Still, the mood at The Hague was not festive. The monies promised at Cairo have not been forthcoming, especially from those who can afford it best. The poor nations have fulfilled 70% of their financial and policy commitments. The wealthy nations, except for a few like the host government of The Netherlands, have produced only 25% of what they promised. Wealth distribution has become more unequal and more violent with the U.N. reporting that the affluent top 20% of the world receives 82% of the world's income, with the rest distributed in miserly and lethal fashion to the remaining 80%. Maternal mortality continues unabated -- with a young woman in the prime of life dying every minute of every day due to unnecessary childbearing crises. An over-consuming world is double glazing and basting itself with warming gases. For some examples of this, the Lewis glacier on Mount Kenya, a major water resource, has lost 40% of its mass; the height at which air temperature reaches 32 degrees has been gaining in altitude since 1970 at a rate of 15 feet a year, and it has rained at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica -- something as weird as would be snow in Saudi Arabia.

WHERE IS RELIGION?

All this is serious if not apocalyptic and it all relates to more people and bigger appetites. So where is religion at this defining moment? Religions at their best have offered saving world views and shed light on moral needs. At the United Nations, this positive role of religion is a virtual unknown. Religion does indeed get mentioned in U.N. documents, but either as a problem or as a possible basis for discrimination. Thanks to Vatican and conservative Muslim stress on reproductive ethics, religion is seen as the major inhibitor of open discussion of family planning. The Vatican has used its idiosyncratic position as the only religion with a seat in the U.N. to function as an iceberg in the shipping lanes of fertility analysis. It inserted in the original Cairo Program of Action its reservations on contraception, sterilization, abortion and, stunningly, "on the use of condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes."

OBSTRUCTION BY THE VATICAN

The subsequent phase of the "Cairo+5" assessment process occurred in New York in March. Consultation Board members Radhika Balakrishnan and Riffat Hassan attended. It was a disappointing session. In spite of the best efforts of the NGOs present, critical issues like financial commitments were sidetracked by religiously fomented disputes about abortion, sex education for teenagers, contraception, and the rights of women. The Vatican was again using its idiosyncratic position in the United Nations to distract that body from its main agenda which is to keep world population to 9.8 billion by 2050, followed by stabilization and decline. The Vatican and its conservative Muslim allies balked even at a pledge to insure that abortions are safe for women legally entitled to them! The nature of this impeding alliance can be seen in the nations that worked with the Vatican: Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Malta.

Efforts are underway to have the Vatican's status at the U.N. altered to reflect reality. The Vatican, a little plot of land in Rome with office space, a church, a museum, and a post office --but with no women or children among its citizens -- is not a state in any meaningful sense. It came into being as a nineteenth century accommodation to compensate the Vatican for the loss of the "Papal states." This accommodation did not constitute the Vatican as a state among the nations of the world. Still, the Vatican managed to impose this juridical fiction on the U.N. and in 1964, over many intelligent objections, Secretary General U Thant granted it "permanent observer status," a position held, for example also by Switzerland.

The Vatican, revealingly, the only state in the U.N. to call itself "Holy," has not borne its privileged status among all world religions with modesty. Its machinations led to major delays at the Cairo Conference in 1994 and it is still busy at obstruction in what I have been calling for some years "the pelvic issues." (Please see the address I gave to the main assembly at the Cairo Conference. Three members of the Vatican delegation were in attendance.)

CHALLENGING THE VATICAN

A movement is afoot among NGOs (including the Religious Consultation) to challenge the Vatican's status and have it declared, more honestly, another NGO, in the manner of Islamic, Buddhist, and Jewish organizations. Success is not likely, given the conservative diplomatic courtesies that mark the U.N. which has treated the Vatican like a state for over 30 years. Were the Vatican one among the many NGOs in the world, it could argue its views on a fair playing field. Perhaps one day -- permit me a moment of dreaming -- the Vatican will, in an edifying and religious act of humility, voluntarily divest itself of its undue privileges and join the other world religions on equal footing. And, perhaps not.

To leave dreams for realism, other religions and religious NGOs will have to be more vocal in pointing out that the Vatican first of all does not speak for all Catholics. There is considerable liberal thinking in large areas of Catholicism and many Catholic theologians and people defend the right to family planning, including abortion and contraception. There is more to the Catholic Church than the Catholic hierarchy which historically tends more often than not to lag behind in the development of Catholic wisdom. We must also call attention to the contributions of all the world religions on matters of population and reproductive health and the rights of women. I and other members of the Consultation will be attending the culminating session of the "Cairo+5" process at the U.N. this summer -- we have received special consultative status as an NGO (see p. 3) -- and will work to counter the Vatican's unfair and unjust influence on the deliberations of this important international body.

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee and President of The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics.

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De-feudalizing Islam:
Change and Reform in the Muslim World

By Asghar Ali Engineer

The world is on the verge of the twenty-first century and different belief systems are being critically examined by experts in various fields. Religion and religious beliefs are no exception. However, this does not mean that the basics of religion itself are to be changed. For revealed religions like Islam, these fundamentals are immutable. But it should also be borne in mind that no religion can escape sociological influences. Even the revealed fundamentals filter through given social structures. The Muslim theologians themselves were conscious of this fact. They made provisions for what they called adat, i.e., the traditions and customs of a given society. The Shari'ah formulations of the early Islamic period were thus influenced by the Arab adat.

Besides adat, other factors like qiyas (analogy) and ijma (consensus) too went into shari'ah formulations and could not have escaped the sociological filter. After all, the consensus among the theologians (ulama) depended on their social outlook. It was, therefore, synthesis of the theological and the sociological which finally gave shape to the Shari'ah formulations. It is for this reason that an eminent Islamic thinker like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad made a distinction between Din (the essence of religion) and shari'ah (the laws governing socio-religious behavior). The Maulana maintained, and rightly so, that while Din is one (his well-known doctrine of Wahdat-e-din), the shari'ah differs from time to time and society to society.

CLASSICAL JURISTS

The classical jurists also had made provision for what they called ijtihad (i.e. creative thinking). Since the social needs were bound to vary from time to time and place to place, there ought to be some provision for creative thinking and re-interpreting divine provisions. Islam was revealed in Arabia and certain socio-legal provisions in the Qur'an catered specifically to the needs of the Arab society of the time. Thus, one who re-thinks issues in Islam on the eve of the 21st century cannot afford to mechanically imitate the classical jurists.

Islam's image has been sullied by a few fundamentalists who are not aware of the progressive nature of the Qur'an's injunctions. The Qur'an laid down fundamental values which were applied to that society by the early jurists. The fundamentalists, rather than going by the value pronouncements of the Qu'ran go by their applications in the early Islamic society. Thus Islam gets frozen in the 7th and 8th centuries when the classical jurists flowered. These fundamentalists do not appreciate the fact that the value pronouncements of the Qur'an -- rigorous justice, equality of all irrespective of color, race and ethnicity, equality of sexes, just distribution of economic resources -- are amongst the most modern, and it is these pronouncements which are fundamental to Islam, not what the classical jurists attempted in their own society.

RATIONAL MANAGEMENT

These fundamentalists are responsible for the image of Islam as a backward-looking religion. The facts point to the contrary. Because of the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the impression is created that Islam disempowers women. In fact, the Qur'an nowhere deprives women of their right to earn their own livelihood (Qur'anic verse 4:32), let alone confine them to their homes. This verse says that "For men is the benefit of what they earn, and for women is the benefit of what they earn." Similarly, the Qur'an pronounces the concept of sexual equality in verse 2:228: "And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner." In verse 33:35, women and men are equated in every respect. It is a wonder that there exist in Islamic Shari'ah provisions which appear to be contrary to the concept of gender justice enshrined in the Qur'an.

It is true that the early Islamic society could not stomach sexual equality. Therefore, the jurists invented the hadith which could sanction sex-discriminatory laws to fulfill their requirements. It is time to re-think these shari'ah provisions and reinvent the original Qur'anic spirit of gender justice. Many modern interpreters of the Qur'an have been emphasizing this approach. In the Arab world, Islamic thinkers like Allama Yusuf Qardawi and others have stressed the Qur'anic spirit of justice. Also, the practice of hijab prevalent in some Arab countries in which women cover themselves from top to toe, including their face, does not exist in the Qur'an. It is a customary practice rather than a Qur'anic one. All that the Qur'an requires is a dignified dress which does not explicitly display a woman's sexual charms in order to attract male attention. This question is more culture-sensitive than categorical in nature. Moreover, cultural norms are more important than theological ones. The earlier theologians and jurists did show cultural sensitivity in their formulations. But the theologians belonging to latter generations lost this sensitivity in their zeal to imitate their predecessors.

There is another important factor -- socio-political in nature -- which is responsible for freezing Islam in the past. The Qur'an had laid emphasis on reason, thinking and reflection and uses words like aql, tadabbur and tafakkur which imply reason, rational management of things and deep reflection. Nowhere does the Qur'an demand blind imitation. The Qur'an also lays emphasis on democratic consultation in state affairs, a fact overtaken by the historical event of monarchy -- which was against the spirit of Islam -- being established in the Muslim world when Yazid, the first Umayyad monarch was installed. It led to the development of an authoritarian culture. This authoritarian culture was also reflected in many juristic formulations which were taken to be immutable. This writer calls this the feudalization of Islam, something which killed its spirit of democracy and justice. In most Islamic countries, this feudal Islam persists and comes in the way of re-thinking and ijtihad.

PROGRESSIVE SPIRIT

The need of the hour is to de-feudalize Islam and restore its progressive spirit. The world of Islam, which is entering the post-modern world, is caught within a contradiction. On one hand, it is modernizing at a fast pace; on the other, it is struggling to keep its feudal identity, resisting change. The dilemma is that it admits to change in economic and technological fields while it struggles to retain its primordial character in the theological realm. The Islamic world has not been able to successfully resolve this paradox. It requires a creative and critical approach to theology.

First, the theologians are ill-equipped to do so. Second, such a theological milieu does not exist in Islamic countries. However, it is only a matter of time, with change being inevitable and the process having already begun. Its pace at present is slow, but there is no way to accelerate it since people cannot often absorb rapid change in religious matters. It is even more difficult in case of the Muslim world. Change, however,is surely on the agenda in the Islamic world.


Asghar Ali Engineer is Chair of the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, India. He was the recipient last year of the New Leaders' Award for Communal Harmony and Interreligious Understanding bestowed by the Indian government. His latest book is The Qur'an, Women and Modern Society to be published by Sterling Publishers of New Delhi. This commentary was first published in The Times of India.


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MOVERS AND SHAKERS:
Tracking the Activities of Our Participating Scholars

Chun-fang Yu of the Department of Religion at Rutgers University has been elected vice-president of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religion (SSCR), the only professional association for scholars of Chinese religion in the world (membership consists of scholars in North America, Europe, and Asia). Her term is three years starting 1999.The SSCR sponsors panels at the annual meetings of the Association of Asian Studies and the American Academy of Religion. ...


Paul F. Knitter
of the Department of Theology at Xavier University spent time in Germany earlier this year presenting lectures and workshops aimed at helping religious teachers in public schools explore ways in which they can teach Christianity without disparaging other religions. Knitter, a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Interreligious Peace Council, has also taken a seat on the Board of Directors of the Religious Consultation. ...



Jacob K. Olupona, Professor of African American and African Studies and Chair Religious Studies Program at the University of California-Davis, will be the Edna Gene and Jordan Davidson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Florida International University in Miami, in the Fall of 1999. In addition to giving the Davidson Lecture, Olupona will be the convener of an international conference, "From Local to Global: Rethinking Yoruba Religious Tradition for the Next Millennium," Dec. 8-12, 1999. For more details on the conference, contact: Dr. Terry Rey, Department of Religious Studies, University Park, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199. ...

Laurie Zoloth, Chair of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University, testified as one of three expert witnesses on Judaism and human stem cell research for the National Bioethics Advisory Board in May. She authored two articles this Spring as well, one in Judaism, "Reading Like a Girl: Gender and Text in Jewish Bioethics" and one in The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, "The Best Laid Plans: History and Vision in Managed Care Medicine." Her research is focused on Jewish thought and emerging issues in medicine and genetics. ...

Farid Esack, a Muslim scholar and Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa, delivered the keynote address at a conference on "Cultural Diversity and Islam" at American University in Washington, DC late last year. He participated in a 3-day all-Africa consultation on "Fatherhood, Sexuality and Masculinity" in Lusaka, Zambia in January and is currently organizing a national conference on "Muslim Personal Law, Constitutionalism and Gender." His book, On Being a Muslim (Oxford: Oneworld), was recently published. ...

Susannah Heschel has taken the new position of Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. On January 31 of this year she gave birth to a daughter. Her most recent book is Abraham Geiger and The Jewish Jesus (University of Chicago Press, 1998). She also co-edited Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust (Augsburg/Fortress). ...

Radhika Balakrishnan recently received tenure at Marymount Manhattan College where she heads the International Studies program. She has been co-chair of the Religious Consultation's "Good Sex: Women's Religious Wisdom on Sexuality" project and wrote a chapter on "Capitalism and Sexuality: Free to Choose?" for the volume produced by the project. She has served as a gender equity consultant to Health, Empowerment, Rights and Accountability (HERA), a coalition of progressive groups participating in the 5-year review process for the International Conference on Population and Development....

Patricia Beattie Jung of Loyola University-Chicago was awarded a John and Theresa Mulcahy Research Support Grant for Catholic Issues to fund a working symposium on "Homosexuality and the Biblical Renewal of Catholic Moral Theology." Sixteen participants from around the United States representing biblical, social scientific, theological and pastoral studies will gather in Chicago next October at Loyola at the Cenacle for an interdisciplinary conversation on this topic. Essays generated for this gathering are to be published in a volume of the same title by The Liturgical Press. Beattie Jung was also a co-chair of the Religious Consultation's "Good Sex" project. ...

Christine E. Gudorf of Florida International University has just had her book Ethics and World Religions: Cross-Cultural Casebook, co-edited with Regina W. Wolfe published by Orbis Books. "Lie Without Anchors: Sex, Exchange, and Human Rights in a Postmodern World" was published in The Journal of Religious Ethics 1998:3, 295-303. Her article "Historical Developments in the Treatment of Abortion in World Religions" will appear in the Advanced Leadership Training Manual published by the National Family Planning Association of China for use in retraining national executive staff and the directors and deputy directors of the provincial family planning staffs. Meanwhile, On Valuing Diversity in the Politics of Difference has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Religious Ethics. ...

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