Faith and spiritual leaders are influential role models in our community. People turn to their faith and spiritual leaders for moral guidance and ethics. As they play such an important role in the lives of many people, faith and spiritual leaders have an important part to play in preventing family violence.
Our local faith leaders oppose family violence and violence against women and their children in all its forms. Across their faith traditions, they declare that:
family violence and violence against women is wrong and unacceptable
every human being should be seen as valued, important and equal and should be treated with respect and equality
sacred texts, scriptures and cultural traditions should not be used as a way to justify or excuse violence against women
True religion will use its sacred text with reverence and awe, not as a tool to justify imperfection and failing, but as an inspiration to live a better way
our faiths affirm that love, respect, equality and living well together, are ideals to aim for.
The following section draws upon sacred texts, scriptures and practices from particular faith and spiritual traditions which can be used to reflect upon:
what your faith or spiritual tradition says about the roles of men and women
what your faith or spiritual tradition says about equal relationships between women and men
what your faith or spiritual tradition says about gender equality.
The statements, quotes and passages have been contributed by community faith and spiritual leaders involved in the project working group and from Greater Dandenong Interfaith Network.
Family violence is a significant social and human rights issue in our society today. Many women experience violence at the hands of male relatives and partners . This is not good enough in our society. We need to do something about it.
It is important for faith leaders to work in their communities to address this issue, to bring about change, to bring about a sense of equity, so women can hold more positions of responsibility and leadership within faith and spiritual communities.
Faith leaders and spiritual leaders are seen as role models and a powerful influence in their community and they have the ability to change something that needs changing in our community and in our society.
Equality between woman and man forms one of the cardinal beliefs of the Bahá’ís around the world.
…The world of humanity is possessed of two wings — the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized…
The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912, p 375
The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world’s population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge...
The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, p 9
The Brahma Kumaris recognise the intrinsic worth of every human being. We seek to help everyone rediscover his or her potential for greatness by encouraging and facilitating a process of spiritual wakening through B.K. meditation. Today, the BK’s worldwide organisation continues to follow the understanding that equality and respect between men and women is based on the awareness that we are all peaceful souls.
“When you use the power to oppose the family, the family does not become powerful. Even if you do not like something, you should still have respect and regard for one another, you should not cut off someone’s idea or words at that time. Therefore, you now have to imbibe the power to accept. There should be closeness and unity within the family."
Equality is promoted in Buddhism. Buddha said anyone can be a Buddha as long as you practice mindfulness. It is recognised that people are different due to their physical and psychological factors, but we all need to be treated equally. It is a classroom of various strengths and the teacher has different ways to reach these students but she/he does care for everyone in the class and help them to succeed. It is not just equality but equity, and it is respected in Buddhism.
In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha stated, "At the start I took a vow, hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us, and what I long ago hoped for has now been fulfilled.”
The Lotus Sutra, translated by Burton Watson, p.36
Christianity teaches that love is the greatest of all virtues, that God is love, and that we must love others as we would want to be loved. We are called to be peacemakers, to forgive, and to treat others with dignity and respect. The Christianity Scriptures teach:
“However you want people to treat you, so treat them” (Jesus, recorded in Matthew 7:12)
“Let us not love with just words or with our speech, but in deed and truth!” (I John 3:18)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul, in Galtians, 3:28
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be away with you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
The Hindu (Vedic) tradition holds a high regard for and the greatest respect to women within its tradition as seen in the honour it gives for the Goddess, who is portrayed as the feminine embodiment of important qualities and powers. Throughout the many years of Hindu (Vedic) tradition and culture, women have always been given the highest level of respect and freedom, but also protection and safety.
“Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers in law, who desire their own welfare. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards. Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. The houses on which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic. Hence men who seek (their own) welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with (gifts of) ornaments, clothes and (dainty) food.”
Manu Smriti III.55-59
Islam teaches us that in the sight of God, Allah Almighty says that all people are equal, regardless of gender. Although, people are not necessarily identical. There are differences of abilities, potentials, ambitions, wealth and so on. Reference is made to men and women through their attributes and deeds. Spiritual equality, responsibility and accountability for both men and women, is a well-developed theme in the Quran. Spiritual equality between men and women in the sight of God is not limited to purely spiritual or religious issues, but is the basis for equality in all temporal aspects of human endeavour.
"I shall not lose sight of the labour of any of you who labours in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other." (3:195) Surah Ali Imran (Family of Imran)
"The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another." At-Tawbah 9:71
The Jewish tradition views all human beings - men, women and children - as being created in God’s image. Undermining the dignity and autonomy of women through control and violence is morally repugnant and has no place in Judaism. Jewish law fosters the belief that men and women are equal partners within the family unit, and men must behave with the utmost respect to their partners.
"A husband should love his wife as much as he does himself and should respect her more than he respects himself." Yevomot 62b
"A sage said that a man should be meticulous in giving proper respect to his wife, because the blessing of the household is by virtue of the wife." Bava Metzia 59a
Sathya Sai promotes respect and equality of men, women and children through a feeling of connection to one’s religion, to maintain the love, peace and harmony in the family circle. The key themes in Sri Sathya Sai teachings are living the five human values of truth, peace, love, right conduct and nonviolence.
“LOVE IS THE KEY...Love is all embracing; it cannot be confined to one person and denied to another. It is a current that flows through all both men and women. Love leads to expansion. Hatred leads to fear...” Sathya Sai Baba
“When there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be PEACE in the world.” Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Sri Sathya Sai Baba teaches of the value of women, stating that ‘women have a vital role to play in the world.
Sikhism is built on the foundation of equality for all human, irrespective of gender, faith, caste, or creed. Women have equal status in every social, cultural and religious matters in the Sikh faith, where women play as an important role as any male in the Sikh faith.
“We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her. Guru Nanak says, Only the One True Lord is without woman.”
Var Asa, pg. 473
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