ELCJHL Church Synod Elects Ms. Nancy Khair

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The Women´s Desk Learns About The Status of Palestinian Women´s Rights

(left) Ms. Nancy Khair Qumsieh seen with Ms. Nahla Azar (right) photo: ELCJHL

Jerusalem – On the heels of The Status of Palestinian Women’s Rights and the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) workshop when more than 50 women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) met to discuss international conventions like CEDAW and to increase women’s participation in decision making within the church, Ms. Nancy Khair Qumsieh of Beit Sahour was elected to serve on the ELCJHL Church Synod, last Friday.

Ms. Qumsieh, who will complete the term of Ms. Muna Salfiti Tannous who resigned due to extensive travel abroad, was elected Synod Secretary until the end of Ms. Tannous’ term in 2021.

Of the 38 synod member seats, there are 31 men and six women. The other five female synod members are Hilda Thabet, Sonia Khoury, Rita Duqmaq, Basma Amer and Rana Khoury.

“This was a surprise for me. I am so proud to be chosen as a woman synod member for the church and the trust from the church. It is a huge feeling of responsibility, but I am kind of fearful because this is the first time I have taken such a sensitive role.” Ms. Qumsieh said. “ I hope and pray to be a source of inspiration for all.”

During the CEDAW workshops on 21 September, Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar said that he would like to see the synod have a balanced representation of women, men and youth that mirrors the Lutheran World Federation Gender Justice Policy (2013) mandate for LWF member churches, which states 40 percent men, 40 percent women and 20 percent youth representation in church decisions and that the gender quota is also represented in youth representatives.

“It is good that you have gathered here together. You are one with the men and we are one with the women. You are the Church.

Bishop Azar

The workshop included lectures and discussions by Ms. Saida Al Atrash, Director of Mehwar Center for the Protection and Empowerment of Women and Families, Ms. Wafaa Al-Araj, legal Advisor at the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Justice Somoud al-Damiri, first female Chief Prosecutor of Personal Status for the Upper Council of Sharia Courts in Palestine and Judge Scarlet Bishara, first female Judge in the Ecclesiastical Court of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Following the lectures, Judge Bishara split participants into three groups to brainstorm recommendations to be taken to the church.

Three questions guided the brainstorming session:
• What are the challenges facing women in the church that limit their participation in decision-making positions?
• What do women need to participate in church decision-making positions?
• What programs are needed to increase women’s access to church decision-making positions?

Recommendations included:
• Provide continued training and education opportunities about the LWF Gender Justice Policy,
• Provide training to equip women for decision-making positions,
• Promote awareness on women’s rights,
• Promote gender equality in schools and the household,
• Hold workshops and conferences,
• Encourage pastors and church leaders to use their role to educate on gender justice,
• Ensure the presence of men at gender conferences and their comfort in discussing gender justice,
• Educate and encourage youth to become active members in the church.

Further follow up is required to put these plans into action.

“The workshop was a huge success, bringing together the Lutheran congregations of the ELCJHL in important dialogue, training and brainstorming regarding the status of Palestinian women’s rights and gender justice in the Holy Land,” Women´s Desk Director, Ranan Issa said.

Lecture Synopsis

Ms. Saida Atrash, Director of the Mehwar Center for the Protection and Empowerment of Women and Families, opened the workshop with an overview of the center’s services and shared their expertise in dealing with domestic violence survivors’ issues in the Palestinian context. Mehwar Center is the first in Palestine offering specialized anti-violence services for women and their children. It was inaugurated on 27 February 2007 as a shelter to provide services for the community at large. The center aims to improve physical and psychological health conditions among victims of violence hosted in the shelter, build up legal knowledge, improve social and life skills in order to help sheltered women and minors’ reintegration into society, reduce incidences of violent behaviors against women and children, and increase social engagement in women and children’s human rights.

Ms. Wafa Al Araj, Advisor in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, summarized and discussed the achievements of the Palestinian Authority in general and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in particular in the field of women’s rights and implementation of CEDAW. Ms. Al Araj highlighted the challenges Palestinian women face such as local customs and traditions, the Israeli occupation, old discriminatory legislations, lack of monitoring and workplace control mechanisms in the private sector, as well as a shortage of labor inspectors.

Justice Somoud al-Damiri, Chief Prosecutor of Personal Status for the Upper Council of Sharia Courts in Palestine, encouraged Lutheran women to push towards achieving significant changes in women’s rights awareness and public attitudes which will have lasting impacts for generations to come.

Judge Scarlet Bishara, Judge in the Ecclesiastical Court of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, offered statistics regarding the disproportions between men and women in high positions in the church. The church consists of three bodies of authorities: the church council, the synod and the church elders. In 2012, the synod approved the ordination of women and in 2015 a new family law was adopted. The ELCJHL is the first and only church in the Middle East to adopt a constitution providing gender equality in family issues including inheritance rights.