Report on the Ecclesia of Women in Asia Videoconference Session
On January 18-21, 2018, the eighth biennial meeting of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia convened in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. On Friday, Jan. 19, a videoconference joined scholars from three continents at several venues in an exhilarating international and interdisciplinary seminar. In the United States five sites hosted remote participation: Fordham University, Bronx, NY, Boston College, Boston, MA, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, and Jesuit School of Theology/Santa Clara University, Berkeley, CA. In Africa two sites hosted: Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations, Nairobi, KE and St. Augustine College, Johannesburg, ZA.
Our first paper was by Rachel Joyce Marie O. Sanchez, Ph.D. candidate and instructor at Ateneo de Manila University, who invited us to ponder what it might mean to think of Christ as the Rice of Life, an image linked to the traditional Philippine story of Sappia, the goddess of mercy, who gave her life as rice for her people. The powerful image of Christ as Rice of Life reminds us of our communal and ecological relationships, and the connection to Sappia brings a feminine and Filipina image in contrast to the traditional androcentric and Eurocentric images of Christ.
Next up was Stephanie Ann Puen, Ph.D. student in Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University, whose paper was titled: “Women and Labor in Food Production: Insights from the Vocation of a Business Leader and the Fair-Trade Movement.” Puen described just labor in Catholic social thought, then noted that in practice, that framework does not recognize the effects of race, culture, and gender (among others) on business. The Fair-Trade movement, while it still has work to do in its own practices of gender equality, is “a step in the right direction.” In sum, “a gendered lens in understanding work is required in order to genuinely result to ‘good goods, good work, and good wealth.’”
The Q&A period which followed the presentations on site and from remote venues demonstrated the potential for this kind of conference. Questions came from all over, literally! We experienced the riches of international dialogue on questions of common interest, our points of agreement as well points of different inflection or importance in different milieux. I am immensely grateful for this opportunity, a sentiment shared by many as we concluded our time together with a sign-off from each of the remote sites to our sisters in Ho Chi Minh City.
Special thanks go to our presenters for their stimulating papers, and of course to all involved in hosting the EWA conference all over the world. Thanks to web-host Gina Wolfe of the Catholic Theological Union and Rick Mauney, CTU’s Director of Educational Technology, who made this the most glitch-free EWA event yet.