Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Women Taking their Rightful Place in Society and Church

On March 8, 1908, in a textile factory in New York, a fire broke out killing all 129  women workers. They had complained to management about the working conditions of the factory and had been locked within the premises.  News of the incident spread quickly and became the rallying cry throughout the world for improving the working conditions of women everywhere. It was the start of International Women's Day, which sought to make known to the world the deplorable conditions under which most women were forced to work.  

A woman member of the Bishops Committee for Research on Pastoral Problems writes, in her article in the Peace Weekly, of the continuing problems women still face in society. She mentions Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish socialist and revolutionary who began the movement so the world would not forget the women who died in that textile factory and the problems women continue to face in the workplace. In Italy, men give yellow mimosa flowers to women, wanting to show solidarity with the working women throughout the world.

Korea also has problems with issues surrounding women. Women workers on average earn about 63 percent of what the men earn. And 70 percent of women workers are getting less for difficult work and holding temporary jobs. They face discrimination, sexual harassment, mistreatment on a regular basis, which sometimes is so outrageous that it makes the news. 

And still unresolved is the issue surrounding the treatment of Korean sex slaves for the Japanese troops many years ago. However, in other countries the news is getting around and will  put pressure on the Japanese government. These problems are not only of the past but today, in different parts of the world, we continue to see the suffering that women have to accept.

In Papua, New Guinea, a news story emerged of a woman, falsely accused of being a witch, being burned alive. The writer mentions that there is no effort made to bring those at fault to justice, and this is not, she says, a unique incident.

If care is not taken to right the wrongs being done to our working women wherever they exist, she believes the future of the  weak in society, the old and the young, will also be jeopardized.

Pope Francis has shown a willingness to get more women involved within the Church. In his Address to the Italian Women's Center, in January, he said "I too have considered the indispensable contribution of women in society. I have rejoiced in seeing many women sharing some pastoral responsibility with priests in accompanying people, families and groups, as in theological reflection, and I have expressed my hope that greater room can be made for a more capillary and incisive female presence in the Church."   She expresses her hope that the women of Korea will also be able to take their rightful place within the Church of Korea.

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