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Sunday, May 06, 2007
Can we play too?
From the AP news -
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A soccer game between Muslim imams and Christian priests at the end of a conference to promote interfaith dialogue was canceled Saturday because the teams could not agree on whether women priests should take part.

Church of Norway spokesman Olav Fykse Tveit said the imams refused to play against a mixed-gender team of priests because it would have gone against their beliefs in avoiding close physical contact with strange women.

The church decided to drop its female players, and the priests' team captain walked out in protest.

Hours before the game was to end the daylong "Shoulder to Shoulder" conference in Oslo, the church released a statement saying it had called off the match because it was sending the wrong signal.

"Because we thought it would be a nice conclusion of the conference we didn't want to call it off, so we decided to stage an all-men team game instead," Tveit said. "We realize now that it will be wrong to have a priest team without women."


Thoughts? Reactions?

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posted by Julie at 10:41 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


18 Comments:


  • At 5/07/2007 01:43:00 AM, Anonymous Leah

    Interesting. Here in America, the word "priest" automatically excludes women - the Catholic church has "priests", Protestant churches usually have "pastors". So this post (through the language bits) actually reminded me of a huge slice of Christiandom that is off-limits to women and has been since the beginning of the Catholic church.

    Do Episcopalians have priests?

    Anyway, we are excluded in many ways - even in many "emergent" communities (i.e. Mars Hill and Acts 29 churches), women are not allowed equal "playing time".

     
  • At 5/07/2007 03:00:00 AM, Blogger usefmony

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 5/07/2007 08:07:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    I wonder why they didn't create a second game for the women?

    There must have been some Muslim women who would have liked to participate.

    It isn't a perfect solution, but I think it's a decent one given the circumstances.

     
  • At 5/07/2007 09:47:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Leah - that language struck me too. The whole thing just brought to mind the myriad of excuses used to prevent women from experiencing full equality.

     
  • At 5/07/2007 10:34:00 AM, Blogger Makeesha

    I think that just really demonstrates the sensitivity and "messiness" when you have interfaith interactions and even interdenominational interactions within Christianity.

    and yes, Episcopalians have priests. I think in the Anglican tradition they are as well..or maybe vicars. Either way, there are women priests in a couple different traditions

     
  • At 5/07/2007 01:00:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Well, why didn't it occur to someone in the host church that it might be objectionable to some conservative Muslims [not that all are, of course] namely Imams to play a mixed gender football match and at least ask prior to scheduling it in the first place? OK, given that that oversight occurred, the church definitely was in a dilemna between staying true to its gender inclusive culture versus wanting to hold the game in an effort of goodwill towards the Imams. However, I think they further goofed by making it male-only, then backtracking and cancelling the game - it would have been better if it had just been cancelled period, and there had been some creative collaboration in brainstorming another activity everyone could have shared in. I often find myself in an intellectual and spiritual struggle when I think on cultures [a term very liberally applied] and practices that I have varying degrees of comfort or agreement with based on my own experiences, beliefs, etc. I often wonder what kinds of norms and practices are "OK" within a given cultural context [ie the complex practice of giving hosts increasingly expensive gifts at successive invited dinners in Japan and Taiwan] versus those that would be universally objectionable [ie female circumcision (and I would argue male as well, but that's a topic for another time)]. My own opinion and sensibility is that Imams or anyone else should be able to relax and have a fun co-ed game of soccer, but that's not my call to make - it's that of the men and women of each cultural and subcultural group.

    Hopefully, it will at the very least be a good source of take home reflection for the participating groups, and here's praying that it encourages more interfaith dialogue as opposed to less.

    OK, off the meandering soapbox rant for now...

     
  • At 5/07/2007 01:18:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    well, that's essentially my observation too - - something along the lines of "helllooo!" like you're really going to get muslim leaders (at least conservative/fundamentalist ones)(men) to play a game of co-ed soccer with women of any faith. I would think that would be a pretty well known issue

     
  • At 5/07/2007 02:12:00 PM, Blogger sonja

    Yeah ... that was my reaction ... what were they thinking? What did they think the response would be from really any imams to play co-ed soccer? There are other universal sports which do not involve body contact. Table tennis (ping pong) comes to mind. It's not as active, but it's competitive and would allow women in the mix without bodily contact. Or perhaps bad minton.

    There must have been some middle ground that could have been found where women could participate that would not have offended the sensibilities of the imams. But maybe we're not getting the whole story.

     
  • At 5/07/2007 04:50:00 PM, Blogger anne

    I just read today, "It's better to be kind than right." If I had been one of the women priests I wouldn't have hesitated in removing myself from the game. I think I would have tried to put myself in someone else's shoes, especially shoes that fit so culturally clumsily. On the positive side, this confrontation was tantalizing enough to warrant some media attention, and I found out about a wonderful "Shoulder to Shoulder" effort in interfaith dialogue. I hope to hear more.

     
  • At 5/07/2007 05:57:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    This reminded me of the need to be open and understand another's position. I think it was an honest mistake. These opportunities seem to be happening more frequently, and many people, us included, are trying to breakdown barriers.
    It reminds me that if and when I am a part of something of this nature, it might be a good idea to get a little information about beliefs, positions, important matters etc. Which is easier said than done, seeing as Christianity can go thousands of ways.
    In regards to culture that is a hard one. Unfortuantely, I have not had the chance to travel much in my life, so cultural things are not usually at the front of my mind.
    I just recently had a very interesting exchange with a woman from Vietnam. She was doing my nails and we got to talking. She was very sweet, but was struggling with the language. She would ask me "how" to say certain things etc. At one point she asked about "minor" things that I don't really think about such as "how do you wrap a gift for X occasion", or "what does X color of flower" stand for. I realized that many things I wouldn't even think about, in their culture has specific meanings, and are much more important than they are for me. I found that I had a very different perspective by the time I left. She had been a teacher in Vietnam, and wanted to teach here, but felt she couldn't do it until she had a grasp of the language. So for the moment, she does nails. She even mentioned that she liked talking to customers because it helped her learn, but many times, she felt people wanted her to get their nails done in a hurry. So most of the time she doesn't talk much.
    It was just interesting! Gave me something to think about.

     
  • At 5/07/2007 08:58:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    michele - what a beautiful missional experience, I love those moments

     
  • At 5/07/2007 09:42:00 PM, Blogger anne

    I read another quote in regard to this story: 'Fykse Tveit said that, despite the differences on the field, "one very good lesson we've learned from this is that when we cooperate, we also enter each others boundaries, and that's a positive thing."'

    Interesting to think about "entering each others boundaries" and the grace and understanding we must all strive for as we learn from each other. Michele, I'm glad you took the time to converse with the woman who did your nails. How beautiful that it enriched both of you!

     
  • At 5/08/2007 09:20:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    So this leaves me wondering (as medium guy brought up) - where does a healthy respect for other cultures end and the call for justice begin? Granted I know most people in the world (and many here) do not see equal rights for women as a justice issue, and there are those of us that strongly do. if we can say that female circumcision and practices of widow burning are wrong and work to change cultures that practice them, what about other issues? Do we just let minor issue go? Does that let them just all build up to the point where equality is impossible?

     
  • At 5/08/2007 09:54:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    Tough question, Julie.

    I think that it depends on the level of (physical or mental) harm.

    It's sort of like the ways in which patients are sorted in an Emergency Room - someone who is hemorrhaging is going to be looked after before the person who came in with a broken arm.

    This doesn't mean that the person with the broken arm doesn't feel pain or need help, only that with limited amounts of energy and resources one has to prioritize things.

    A broken arm isn't going to kill you in the next X-number of minutes. Unchecked, massive bleeding will. So we try to do the best we can with what we have been given. It's far from perfect.

    What do you think the Christian priests should have done instead, Julie?

     
  • At 5/08/2007 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Makeesha

    I don't think we let minor issues go but I DO think we have to start by honoring where people are at and understanding with respect where their beliefs come from and then we patiently move them toward a place of growth in the area of justice through a place of relationship.

    We also probably need to realize that true gender justice needs to come from within the culture and community, not from the outside. Assistance and support can certainly come from us but the real change will have to come from them.

    I don't think that this soccer match was a time for challenging the beliefs of the conservative muslim community, I think it was a time for restorative, reconciliatory respect and understanding by honoring their beliefs by sacrificing some of their own perceived "rights".

    I think it would have spoken volumes for the women priests to humbly apologize for misunderstanding of culture and bow out graciously. Maybe if there were wives of Imams there they could have reached out to them with some activity or something?

     
  • At 5/08/2007 12:16:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Question: did the Imams object to the women playing because they don't affirm women clergy or because of their cultural mores about gender mixing/bodily contact between unmarried, non-relatives? If it was the former than I would say the responsibility to practice tolerance for difference would be on the Imams; if itwwas the latter, I'd suggest the responsibility would be on the priests to practice cultural respect and sensitivity.

     
  • At 5/08/2007 01:15:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    Jemila - good question, I just assumed it was the latter.

     
  • At 5/08/2007 01:46:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Great comments...and questions. I agree with all of it. Each thing is very situational. I am a firm advocate for equality of women, and I believe that there are horrible injustices occuring to women all over this world.
    I would say that sexual mutilation is horrible, and we should do all we can to help women in these cultures and find ways to work toward change.

    I also agree that we can do what we can, but true change will have to come within those cultures themselves. We are much more advanced, and in many instances, these cultures are very far behind where we are. Not to mention that we (especially the US) are not necessarily looked at in a favorable way by many cultures.

    Jemila, I think that is a good question and way of looking at this situation. As Lydia said, certain issues are at higher levels. I personally feel that if this instance was more about "female" contact vs. acceptance of females in the "religious" respect, then it would have been appropriate to have a dialog with the females involved, and hopefully some understanding for the purpose of the meeting. If the purpose was to "break barriers" and open for dialog, than hopefully in time these "differences" can be discussed.

    As with many things in life, relationship and trust is a huge part of change. Sometimes we have to allow for those to build to get further in the situation. Again, though, if we are talking extreme harm then that is a different approach.

     

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