Women and Faith: The Act of Reflection

By: Noreen Sajwani

March 15, 2013

Sparking from a discussion between Father O’Brien and Hindu Students Association (HSA) and Catholic Daughters Presidents Neha Jejurikar and Abigail Galvan, I became increasingly interested in expanding the HSA’s interreligious efforts with various Campus Ministry organizations. As the current Secretary of the Interfaith Student Council (ISC) and HSA Interfaith Coordinator, this interest soon turned into fanaticism about the invaluable dialogue waiting to be shared at a future “dinner and dialogue” event I hadn’t even begun planning yet with the Catholic Daughters. I wanted to do so much, but I feared that the goal was of the distant future and remained ephemeral.
After contacting Kyra Hanlon, the Interfaith Representative of the Catholic Daughters (CDA), these thoughts dissipated and planning for the first ever HSA-CDA interfaith dialogue were well under way. Kyra and I, along with the unforgettable assistance of Lisa Pannucci and others at Campus Ministry, kept us on track, prepared, and motivated to make this one of the best events ever.

When speaking with Kyra about our goals for this event, both wanted to open up a space for dialogue with two religions that would otherwise typically not interact much. With Hinduism being a non-Abrahamic faith, the differences seem to cloud underlying similarities within both traditions. One of these in particular was the role of gender relations, specifically women, and the dinner seemed like a great opportunity to come together and discuss issues like attendance during prayer services, with respect to gender. At a meeting we had before the dialogue, Kyra eloquently wrote exactly what I wanted to gain from this experience in our email to send to fellow students, faculty, and staff: “We hope to learn and grow in faith together”; I think that's one of the most valuable lessons I have to take away from this event, beginning to end. Many dialogues interact and share, but this one allowed us to nurture one another's spiritual beliefs on the basis of womanhood, which is something extraordinary and to treasure in interreligious dialogue.

The support of Georgetown faculty and staff truly made this experience memorable for me. We even had two men, who took the reigns for much of their table’s small-group discussion and provided insights on how gender relations affect religious identity. At the end of the day, I feel it is important to recognize so many of the questions we take for face value in religion and not only reflect on them, but also discuss the "why’s" with others: why do mothers hold much of the responsibility to teach their children about faith and spirituality? How do female stereotypes distinguish each gender’s role during rites and ceremonies throughout prayer services? What does it really mean to be men and women for others in the context of religious reverence to God, someone assumed to be male?

Interestingly enough, these questions lingered in my mind following the event. It didn’t make sense at first, because I hoped this discussion would finally answer everything I had wondered about in my theology classes, and now those questions were only going to be answered with more? It was then that I realized the importance of contemplation in action, and how these thoughts should be used to not only reflect on my experiences thus far at Georgetown but also shape those to come in the future. Thus, I believe this reflection serves to not only think about or commemorate the achievements of two religious organizations on campus but also to make others aware of the paths and actions that can stem from this simple, yet powerful dinner and dialogue on women and religion.
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Women and Faith: The Act of Reflection