Women in Middle Eastern Christianity, in “Surviving Jewel: The Enduring Story of Christianity in the Middle East”

It’s an honor to be part of the contributors to this new book co-edited by Dr. Mitri Raheb. For those who are interested in Southwestern Asian and North African Christianity! My chapter focuses on Christian Women’s current issues and contemporary voices of change in this region.

“Women in Middle Eastern Christianity: Current Issues and Contemporary Voices of Change”, Surviving Jewel: The Enduring Story of Christianity in the Middle East, Mitri Raheb and Mark Lamport (Ed.), Wipf and Stock Publishers (Cascade Books), Eugene-Oregon (USA), 2022, p. 199-214.

My chapter’s Introduction excerpt: “The story of Christians in the Middle East i.e. Southwestern Asia and North Africa has seldom been told in terms that highlight their major contributions to local/regional cultures, their traditions and popular cultures, their denominational identities, their demographic states, their legal standing, their encounters with diverse local religious communities, their minorization, their emigration, and even their disappearance. Numerous first-rate studies of and about Christians in this part of the world have been published in the last two to three decades, but most have not been so much concerned with Christian women’s situations, narratives, struggles, and achievements, specifically those of contemporary Christian women. This is a facet that deserves attention, as it has often been neglected by both “westerners” and “easterners.” In that sense, two of the many current issues about Christian women in this part of the world are addressed in this chapter – women and Scriptures, and religious authority -, by focusing on a number of narratives and initiatives for change produced by contemporary scholars (…). Tackling these issues is more than needed nowadays given the fact that women in Southwestern Asia and North Africa are still facing a patriarchal environment/system and mentality to varying degrees. This environment/system enshrines the assumptions that heads of institutions must be male, male voices rightfully dominate public and private spaces, and female position is subordinate although necessary. As Suad Joseph defines it, patriarchy in the Arab context is the prioritizing of the rights of males and elders, and the justification of those rights within kinship values usually supported by religion. According to Joseph, the persistence of patriarchy is an obstacle for women, and it affects health, education, labor, human rights, and democracy. A similar insight is shared by numerous scholars and activists such as Nahla Yassine-Hamdan who asserts that gender inequality is visible in the Arab world with cross-national differences in gender inequality that reflect cross-national differences in patriarchy, in particular differences in how men use their power over women [including by instrumentalizing religions] to limit their agency or ability to make decisions for themselves. Several feminists who have been part of the “Red Lips High Heels” online movement from 2012 to 2017 also share the same observations/conclusions. In addition, they offer a sample of the extended debate about the best method to fight patriarchy within local societies, ranging from views that define patriarchy as a “western” concept not applicable to local Christianity and to Islam, through to secularist views that hold that Christianity and Islam are intrinsically patriarchal. Some Christian and Muslim contributors to the Red Lips High Heels movement argue for the emergence of a subjective turn that would eclipse traditional religions and open the door to expressive selfhood in a post-religious society. Others argue for progressive reform of institutionalized religions and the integration of women in decision-making processes. And there are a few who seek to offer alternative experiences of self, body, and spirituality that challenge dominant representations of women. These feminist views/currents, along with many others, are found at the basis of contemporary narratives, perceptions, and positions about women and Christianity in Southwestern Asia and North Africa. Characteristics of some of these currents are highlighted in the following sections of this chapter.”

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Jewel-Enduring-Christianity-Middle/dp/172526319X

Wipf and Stock Publishers (Cascade Books): https://wipfandstock.com/9781725263192/surviving-jewel/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/surviving-jewel-mitri-raheb/1141589837

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