interfaith dialogue

The Dwell Project

The Dwell Project is managed by Roxy and Eddie, who spoke at our ‘Reclaiming the F Word’ conference in March this year. Its vision ‘is to prevent domestic violence against women – including honour related violence, through education, awareness, & partnership at the front line of Christian-Muslim relations’. Here, Roxy explains what the project is doing and how it hopes to change lives.

Dwell started because of our own experiences with domestic violence in our families & a desire to change the perceptions & myths we heard in faith communities about domestic violence. It started with the belief in healthy & safe relationships for all men & women.

We felt a need to get men in faith communities involved especially Christians & Muslims in standing against the issue because without them domestic violence will continue. So the Dwell Project is preventing domestic violence in Christian and Muslim communities through workshops about the truth & myths about domestic violence, about masculinity & healthy intimate relationships. We raise awareness about domestic violence online through social media campaigns such as Frocktober which ran through October this year & our blog which we write regularly.

We are a married couple with our own story of God’s healing in our lives, healing from the trauma of domestic violence (which we experienced in our homes as children) which gives us hope & a belief that it is possible with God’s help to make a difference. We want to encourage Christians to pray so we are working on resources that will help. We want churches to be ready to support those who have suffered domestic violence. More than that we want churches to prevent it from happening through speaking about gender equality within marriages, talking to young adults about masculinity & giving them space to share & be vulnerable about relationships.

We seek to be people who live with the hope of beautiful relationships between men & women. We look to God and ask him to help us to believe that he is with us as we do this work. We ask for faith in relationships, in marriage, in partnerships between Christians & Muslims, men & women that will enable us to prevent domestic violence. We are realistic in believing that this work will take a long time. We try to find creative ways to raise awareness about domestic violence & our blog is an example of this.

Ultimately we believe in heaven coming to earth as we pray The Lord’s Prayer. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We believe heaven will be without pain & violence so believe when we pray for heaven on earth we are praying for an end to domestic violence.

“Our Father in Heaven,
Reveal who you are
Set the world aright:
Do what’s best –
As above so below.
Keep us alive with 3 square meals
Keep us forgiven with you & forgiving others
Keep us safe from ourselves & the Devil
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Matthew 6:9-13 (Message version)

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Reclaiming the F Word conference – talks now available!

An inspiring and wonderful time was had at Reclaiming the F Word on Saturday 8th March and we are excited to be able to provide you with some recordings of talks from the day. Whether you were there or not, we hope these talks will be a valuable resource to you. Do pass them on and share them with anyone who may be interested!

Reclaiming the F Word – Kristin Aune

Kristin started the day off by exploring what feminism is and sharing some of her research about feminists and faith.

Listen here

Is there a feminist preaching style? – Revd. Dr. Terry Biddington

It may be that the time has come to ditch the sermon as an out-moded and ‘masculinist’ form of communication. Or perhaps there is a fresh approach drawing on the work of so many feminist thinkers.

Sermons both occupy and create what the Scottish poet Don Paterson calls “the space between us.” They occupy a particular space in the worship: different perhaps according to religion, religious denomination, or indeed each specific liturgy. But they also create a space: a space for listening and hearing, a space for speaking and thinking aloud, a space for dreaming and imagining “what-if?”; a creative-regenerative space in which the Spirit can operate. A space that is between:

• the preacher and the congregation

• the preacher, the congregation, and the text

• the gathered community and God

• the present moment and the past, the future, and all eternity

How can we make the “sermon space” a welcome opportunity for collective lingering: an invitation to take a sideways glance, a seeing out-of-the-corner-of-an-eye, and, perhaps, the occasion to catch a glimpse of something unexpected and potentially life-transforming?

Listen here

Bring on the Crones – Rev. Pam Smith

Wisdom has sometimes been defined as “the knowledge of the elders” and in a time where many seem to believe feminism began in 2010, the crones (wise women) are often silenced in favour of younger women. Revd. Pam Smith shares her experiences of feminism over the last 40 years, and considers the ways feminism can really honour and listen to its foremothers.

Listen here

Men and the Feminist Struggle – David Benjamin Blower

Why are men rarely feminists?

What is the state of masculinity today?

What kind of masculinity helps men rise to the feminist struggle?

Listen here

Poetry as Liberation – Christian Feminist Poetics in Action – Rev. Rachel Mann

A combined poetry reading and reflection upon how poetry can be location for feminist liberative praxis.

Listen here

My Privilege Trumps Yours – Natalie Collins

Michael Kimmel states that “privilege is invisible to those with it”. This session looks at the interaction of inequality and privilege, how each of us may be implicated in and perpetuate oppression, what a right use of power looks like and how to make visible to each of us the water that humanity swims in.

Listen here

Feminist Liturgy – Rev. Anna Macham

Listen here

CFN at UK Feminista Summer School

Natalie Collins blogs about facilitating a workshop entitled ‘Religion, Faith and Feminist Activism’ at UK Feminista’s Summer School last weekend.

As a Christian it is often a struggle to feel fully part of the feminist movement. With many feminists stating that religion is a patriarchal construct, and having personally having been told by a feminist organisation I worked for that it would never be appropriate for me to mention my faith during my work, it is difficult to feel part of the sisterhood. Similarly in the church, I often feel like an anomaly as I bring a feminist perspective to sermons, songs and home groups, to the point where I often avoid small groups as I know I’m unlikely to fit in.

So it was great to be able to be involved in running a workshop at UK Feminista’s Summer School in Birmingham. The weekend-long event had a rich and varied programme, a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere and lots and lots of wonderful feminists. I was originally asked to participate in a panel with feminists from different faith and religious communities, as a representative of the Christian Feminist Network, however I ended up facilitating the session, with two Muslim women, Maria and Ujoor, sharing their experiences alongside me sharing mine.

The session was wonderful. We had over fifty people attend, with individuals self-identifying as Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, spiritual, exploring faith and atheist. Some people felt committed to their faith, whereas others felt that their faith was something they had inherited and in that way was a part of their identity.

The dialogue was open and respectful. The Summer School organisers had shared with me that some issues of Islamophobia had been raised in other sessions, and so we ensured the session was introduced as a space for respectful dialogue. People shared their views and experiences of being people of faith, and how for some, feminism was an extension and complemented their faith identity. Some people couldn’t understand why feminism seems to be seen as an atheist movement, which allowed those who self-identify as atheist to share their views.

One woman commented on how women who wear very little clothing are seen by society as “sluts”, whereas women who wear the hijab are seen as being oppressed. She said she felt it would be wonderful if, in the same way as feminists had started “slutwalks” to declare that women should be able to wear little or no clothing and not be victimised, feminists could also stop seeing women who choose to cover their heads or bodies as oppressed.

It was wonderful to hear Maria and Ujoor’s stories of being Muslim activists, and Maria discussed how we shouldn’t blame Islam for oppressing women, focusing instead on the fact that it is those who choose to use Islam as an excuse to oppress and abuse women. Maria and Ujoor shared how they felt frustrated when people think that Muslim women are a homogenous group, when each woman and their individual communities have very different experiences and values.

We discussed our various experiences of being feminists of faith, and those within the group who were atheists listened and heard our views. The session finished with me sharing some of my story, of how I grew up in a Christian home and how Christian teaching had disabled me from making good choices, leading to me experiencing abuse, but also how it was through my faith in God that I was able to make it through the most difficult period in my life. I shared of working within the feminist world and the challenges I had faced and also the Christian leader who had told me she had to have the “spirit of feminism” cast out of her.

I concluded by talking about the similarities of faith communities and the feminist community. Each is full of flawed people, with a shared set of values and principles, which are perceived differently by every individual, a community of people trying to be on the same page, though with different priorities, perceptions and life experiences. My observation is that the feminist dialogue about trans* people looks very similar to the Christian dialogue regarding the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

After I finished, we separated into groups of people with the same faith and had some time sharing and discussing. Some of us swapped details and hope to stay in contact. Many shared with me how useful the workshop had been and how much they appreciated the space, both people of faith and those without.

A big thank you must be given to UK Feminista for being intentional in creating a space for people of faith and as we continue to have respectful and open dialogue I hope and pray, as do all those at the Christian Feminist Network, that we might get to a place where people of faith truly know we fit within feminism and are more equipped to challenge misconceptions within our faith communities.