The Architecture of Women

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The mosque designed by Zeynep Fadillioglu in Istanbul, Turkey, is now open, and it’s the first one in the country to have been designed by a woman. Viva le difference! Here’s an excerpt from The National:

Zeynep Fadillioglu, an award-winning designer who made her name with the interiors of fancy bars, restaurants and private homes, has created a buzz with her interpretation of a modern place of worship. The fact that Ms Fadillioglu, 53, is the first woman in charge of the design of a Turkish mosque has sparked even more headlines about the project.

In a country where most mosques even today are variations of the classical designs of Sinan, the 16th-century Ottoman master architect, and where women have commissioned mosques before, but never built them, both the design and the designer of the Sakirin Mosque are a departure from the norm. The state institution overseeing Islam in the secular Turkish republic, the presidency of religious affairs, has recently signalled that it wants to strengthen the role of women by appointing them to leading religious posts, among other steps. But in everyday life, women are still mostly in the background when it comes to such projects as the Sakirin Mosque.

See more photos at Radikal.

Empower Women, Empower Nations

041133aswaneehuntAmbassador Swanee Hunt has a great post on the International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security held in Monrovia, Liberia, last weekend in honor of International Women’s Day.

I’ve admired Swanee Hunt since I met her in Sarajevo during the war years and saw the work she was doing with Bosnian women war-survivors. I interviewed her for Sojourners in 2004 about the Women Waging Peace project she founded and her book This Was Not Our War.

Here’s an excerpt from her blog post A Historic Gathering in Monrovia:

I thought the most powerful speaker was Governor-General Michaelle Jean of Canada, representing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Haitian by birth, she spoke eloquently of what she has learned “from the incredibly courageous women of Liberia … Female leaders who see every ordeal as an opportunity … who measure their success by what they give, rather than what they take. You exclude women, you fail. You empower women, you empower a nation. Women never forget that life is our most precious asset.”

To read the Democracy Now! interview with world-renowned human rights lawyer and advocate and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson on her perspective from the Monrovia women’s meeting, go here.

Linda Pastan’s ‘The Happiest Day’

I heard Linda Pastan read her poetry at the AWP conference last week in Chicago. She’s a favorite of mine. She was speaking on the panel called “Women of a Certain Age” with Janet Burroway, Alicia Ostriker, Hilda Raz, and Rosellen Brown. Here’s one of Pastan’s poems from her collection Heroes in Disguise.

The Happiest Day

awp-2009-015It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn’t believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of the lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day–
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere–
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then…
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.

–Linda Pastan

The Pope’s Long Right Arm

Pope Benedict–theologian, intellectual, scholar–said, in effect, pastoral leadership and inter-religious unity be damned this week when he “un-excommunicated” the irregularly ordained crazy Catholic-ish right-wing sect known as the Society of St. Pius X.

Read the clip below from Whispers in the Loggia:

In an effort to stem the nightmare of perception born from his lifting of the excommunications of the four illicitly-ordained bishops of the Society of St Pius X and concurrent comments from one of the clerics disputing the use of gas chambers by the Third Reich during World War II, the Pope used this morning’s General Audience to give a reflection on the Holocaust and his weekend decree removing the gravest of sanctions from the ultratraditionalist leaders.

My question is: How long is the Pope’s left arm? If his right arm can reach far enough to un-excommunicate the unrepentant Holocaust deniers, certainly his left arm can stretch out to lift the excommunication orders on the irregularly ordained Catholic women bishops and priests–members of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement–who seek to serve their church. Can I get an Amen?!

Howth: A Woman Priest in Ireland

In the Irish Times on Tuesday, there was a nice commentary by Ginnie Kennerley. She’s a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest and editor of Search magazine. Kennerley gives a little peek into her world as one of Ireland’s first women priests and the surprising warmth and receptivity she’s felt among the Catholics in Ireland, many asking her, “When will our church get round to it?”

A SURPRISING thing about being one of the first women priests in Ireland has been the extent to which it has taken me out into the wider church community. It aroused an interest which was much wider than in my own church, and this offered the opportunity for a good deal of exposure to students, congregations and clergy of other churches – all of it enriching. …

Ever since my childhood in England, with a grandmother, an uncle and an aunt who were Roman Catholic converts, I had been aware there were spiritual riches in the Catholic and the Orthodox traditions; this awareness fed into my occasional Christian Unity Week sermons down the years. Invariably there was a warm welcome on these occasions – so warm that one could be forgiven for impatience with the power plays between the churches’ representatives.

“When will our church get around to it, I wonder?” was a common remark at country events where people who had never met a woman in a collar pressed round to shake my hand.

I’ve been following the women’s ordination movement with great interest. You can track some of my musings in Rocking the Boat, an article I wrote for Sojourners..