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Texas Faith 22: Do religions oppress women?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Nelson Mandela has formed a group called The Elders to address causes of suffering around the globe. One area that the council, which includes such members as Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi , has been looking at is whether religions oppress women.

In responding to this new organization, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently observed that:

Paradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.

This week's question is two-fold:

The question: Do you think religions are a factor in the oppression of women? If so, how? If not, please explain your view.

Also, is Kristol right? Are Pentecostals ahead of the pack in encouraging women to take leadership roles?

Our Texas Faith panel response.  NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

Religion, like any powerful thing, can be used to help or harm. True religion begins when we realize that we are not these mortal bodies but rather the eternal observers within. Our physical bodies may have many associated designations such as male, female, Black, White, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and so on.

Such designations may change but the soul, the eternal being within the body, does not. Not only are we eternally the same, but eternally we have the same need, that need is to be engaged in loving service to God.

Just as the hand is best suited serving needs the body rather than just the hand itself. So similarly the soul is best suited serving God. One in that best suited position does not exploit others in their quest for pleasure, for their pleasure come from God directly. Therefore a truly spiritual person cannot be cause of oppression of any group.

Hare Krishna :)

Your humble servant,

Nityananda Chandra Das

To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here