My days at CSW are filled with events hosted by NGOs, UN, and Ecumenical organizations.Â NGO/CSW arranges a schedule of events happening daily.Â The “official” CSW56 events at the UN offered 2 passes to the United Methodist Women and I will be able to attend one of those meetings on Wednesday from 1-3pm.Â So, myself and the other delegates choose where to go each day based on the title and sponsor of the side-event.
Most of the events are housed in the Church Center for the United Nations.Â In the 1960s a large group of United Methodist Women purchased and built a 12 story building across from the UN.Â These women (and male counterparts) organized with the hopes of eradicating war and assisting UN peace keeping operations.Â They did not name the building United Methodist Women United Nations Building, but “The Church Center” and it houses ecumenical organizations working on global social justice such as Women’s Mission Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Church Women United, Lutheran World Federation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian International Office and the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.
At the events I attended I heard stories about and from rural women.Â Each panel is a bit of an emotional roller coaster.Â It is common to hear first hand stories articulating: “sexual violence is worse in the rural areas,” “women are still regarded as weak and unable to learn,” “girls are not educated,” “girls are not allowed to celebrate their birthday,” “women are scared of their husbands and isolated from relationship,” “women are beaten and sexually harassed in the fields,” “women can not own land,” “women are excluded from formal and informal legal systems”
Yet I also hear about “increased agricultural production through organic farming,” “girls who are allowed to go to school instead of being married at a young age,” “women who are pregnant at a young age are allowed to go back to school,” “public disobedience in women’s groups advocating to own land,” “integrated community based adult education,” “women groups rear goats or keep bees to help them in farming and economic stability.”
My passion for women’s work grows with each story and panel.Â Yet, I am frequently overwhelmed.Â I start to wonder, “Where is God?”
In the panels, I do not hear God or religion frequently mentioned, even through the building and organizations have religious connections.Â I wish we could name and discuss different interpretations of God which have oppressed women.Â Seems like we don’t invite God to the conversation, just in case the patriarchal, hierarchical, and distant God shows up to put us in submission.Â I wish I could shout from the empire state building, “THAT GOD DOESN’T EXIST!” I wish we could speak about Godâ€™s embrace of all that we are as demonstrated through the incarnation using the language of vulnerability to address the horrific assaults of sexual violence, discrimination, abuse, and oppression.
On the night when God was the most vulnerable, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his friends.Â â€œWhile they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, â€˜Take, eat; this is my bodyâ€™ (Matthew 26:26).â€Â By offering the bread, Jesus invites a violent and broken world to be included in his body.Â Women who suffer from violence need to be in a community that incarnates Godâ€™s acceptance and vulnerability.Â I believe through the incarnation, God is with those who suffer and invites all to be part of the healing body of Christ.
So the answer to my question, “Where is God?” God is in the suffering and the solution.Â There are no limits to God’s love and vulnerability.Â Yet, this interpretation of God is not shared by shouting from a tall building, it is communicated by listening to stories, giving hugs, releasing tears, bursting into laughter, and sharing lives.