May peace prevail in your conscience and in your heart.” This is the greeting being said by many indigenous peoples worldwide. It is said by two persons while they slide each other’s hands and then point to their respective head and heart.
Dr. Genevieve Balance-Kupang, a cultural anthropologist and professor at Saint Paul’s College in Pasig, introduced the greeting at the Women’s Interfaith Luncheon organized last week by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or popularly known as Mormons.
Upon learning it, everybody at the meeting greeted each other, setting the participants in synergy since the gathering discussed issues on peace, women and faith.
The women interfaith leaders shared the challenges, joys and issues faced by women.
Nurturing, spiritual maternity, women empowerment, Mary as model, harmony in the family—were the common words said in the meeting that discussed the role of women in the family, in the community, in the country and in the international arena.
Visiting LDS leaders, Sis. Bonnie Oscarson, Young Women General president; and Sis. Jean Bingham, first counselor in Primary General Presidency, shared the LDS programs to make the children and youth “live and follow Jesus Christ”.
Bingham, who is in charge of LDS children 18 months to 11 years old, said parents are the first teachers of children.
“We teach children to be good citizens of society,” with the family as the center that “can be together forever, even beyond this life.”
She said LDS puts primacy to education and good values, which they communicate also through music.
LDS assists in health and welfare of children, and maintain ties with the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Oscarson said half a million of LDS members are youth aged 12 to 17. They have programs at their different stages in life, like personal program for young women or preparing the youth for marriage.
They also teach them the values of how to live and follow Jesus Christ.
There are 731,240 LDS members in the Philippines since it was established in 1961.
Lilian Sison of Asia-Pacific Women of Faith Network of Religions for Peace shared that Filipino women are victims of violence. In 2013 reported domestic violence increased to 16,517, physical injuries to 3,564 and rape to 1,259.
She said women are also victims of inequality by men. She added that the Religions for Peace also campaign in Mindanao to empower women and restore their dignity.
For Asela Arago of the Focolare Movement, with the Marian background of Catholics, the Virgin Mary is used as model of women who commit themselves to each member of the family and provide harmony in the family.
“Their spiritual maternity makes them [women] fruitful in society, not only in the church,” Arago said.
“Our wealth is our children,” Balance-Cupang said, as she related how her Project Gala provides assistance to Aetas in Zambales. The project assists the community by providing quality education to Aeta children, spiritual formation, infrastructure, environment stewardship, transportation, livelihood, shelter, health services and preservation of cultural heritage.
The difference between men and women “is good for complementarity,” said Dr. Riza Bondal of the University of Asia and the Pacific, as she discussed the concerns on equality of men and women, and women empowerment.
“We celebrate what is different,” she said.
She said the unique attributes of women that can humanize the world are receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity.
“The real equality [between men and women] is equality in dignity,” she said.
Dr. Maribel Descaliar of Teodora women’s advocacy group of the Couples for Christ said the group provides formation for women, especially mothers. It holds interreligious mothers’ festivals and organizes mothers’ circles in schools and poor areas, which teaches skills and good moral values.
It also organizes Handmaids for Family and Life for widows and separated women that promote values formation and gift-based ministry in the Philippines and other countries.
Elder Shayne Bowen, the LDS Philippines area president, in highlighting the role of the family, quoted from the LDS document “The Family: A proclamation to the world,” saying: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny…”
He added: “‘Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.’ ‘children are the heritage of the Lord’ [Psalm 127:3]….”