In his opening remarks, WCC programme coordinator for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar, shared hopes that the discussion would highlight “how women, through their interreligious engagement, have been agents of hope, hospitality and healing” in a world struggling with COVID-19, as well as “many other pandemics.”
Dr Gaya Gamhewage, head of Learning and Capacity Development for the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme highlighted how women’s disadvantaged position in society has enabled them “to see things from a different perspective, to embrace vulnerability, to have humility, to have discipline, but also to really ache and hurt while others are in pain.”
Rev. Dr Elina Hellqvist, interim director of the ELCF’s Office for Global Mission, noted that in the Finnish context where interfaith dialogue is relatively new, "we see more women involved in interfaith dialogue than in many other parts of the church life.” While women’s “practical attitude to everyday life” can be seen as a strength, it can also distract attention from “the big discussions” about faith values and principles, she added.
Dr Debbie Weissman, former president of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ), highlighted how the marginalization of women “in our own cultures and faith communities,” may have helped them develop “a certain kind of empathy or identification with others who are similarly marginalized,” resulting in the development of “a special kind of resilience.”
This online encounter was jointly organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC), Lutheran World Federation, and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and moderated by Rev Dr Sivin Kit, Programme Executive for Public Theology and Interreligious Relations of the Lutheran World Federation.