Ilona Sābera – portfolio

blogging, journalism, semiotics, short stories


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Educated women in India face more violence

In India I met and interviewed a strong and outspoken woman. She is very honest about suffering and abuse she has faced, but she does not lose hope and is fighting for change.

“If you ask any women, whether it is a women in power or a women in poverty, each have their stories of violence and pain,” says Moumita Biswas, executive secretary of All India Council of Christian Women.

Moumita is often vocal and direct in her statements on various types of violence. Being part of women’s wing of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), her work involves advocacy on gender justice, women theology, minority and indigenous women’s rights.

National Council of Churches in India represents 14 million protestant and orthodox Christians. After Hinduism and Islam, Christianity is the third largest religion. There are 24 million of Christians of various denominations, around 2,3 percent of the total population.

In the video, filmed at by Henry Martin Institute of Interfaith studies in Hyderabad, Moumita tells her personal story of violence and sexual abuse and sheds light on what it is to be a woman in India.

“Always I am labelled as a fighter woman. Even if you are strong and bold, you are labelled and stigmatized. I sometimes felt, if I kept quiet, I would have faced less violence,” executive secretary admits. She manages to defy every stereotype. In addition to her professional achievements, Moumita is a single divorced mother, taking care of her eight years old daughter.

On various occasions executive secretary of women’s wing of NCCI has had to reaffirm – violence against women is present in any circumstances, disregarding social or professional background or wealth.  Victims are often blamed for the violence they face, rather than their perpetrators. A number of times women in leadership positions are being forced to adopt male behaviour or their views are not taken into consideration.

While education is considered the leading indicator of improving women’s status, sociological research shows that it might not be the only obstacle. According to a recent study, Indian women who are more educated than their husbands, earn more, or who are the sole earners in their families are more likely to experience violence from their partners than women who are not employed or are less educated than their spouse.

Churches in India have a great role as civil society organisations.  Moumita has been working on various initiatives to raise awareness on sexual harassment, child protection and gender justice education. Her aim is to “end the culture of violence”. All India Council of Christian Women launched this year a 365 days Zero tolerance to gender Based violence: Make it happen now! The campaign included activities to honor women police officers and ask for women-friendly police stations, men speaking about positive masculinity and highlighted the 16 Days of Activism against gender based violencea and White Ribbon movement – men led initiative to end violence against women.

Increasing rape rate has put India among the most dangerous countries for women. The Delhi case where 23 year old woman was gang raped on a private bus and died of injuries later caused local and international outrage and protests against the state negligence in 2012. The girl went out with her male friend and took a bus after several rickshaw drivers refused to take them aboard. In a number Indian cities taxis refuse passengers a short distance drive as this will not bring a high fare. As part of Thursday’s in Black campaign women’s wing of NCCI approached rickshaw drivers in Calcutta asking to always take women aboard in the evenings. “We don’t need big money to do this. Out of ten drivers we have spoken to, five will remember”, executive secretary is optimistic.

In addition to social outreach, Moumita is a theologian and uses scriptures as a reputable reference and empowerment tool. She interprets Bible from a woman’s perspective addressing such taboo topics as menstruation and hygiene, women trafficking and prostitution, sexual violence and divorce. She leads Bible studies as a professional performer and audience is taken by her empathy and ability to step into women’s shoes. “Our theology must change,” Moumita affirms, referring to dominating interpretation of scriptures.

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Christian school in Nigeria more welcoming towards Muslim students

Once more I am writing about religious dialogue. Despite dominating violence discourse I want to share a positive example, this time about Nigeria.

Published on Anglican News.

school

Saint Mark’s Anglican primary school in Kawo Kaduna, Nigeria, is the only church school in the diocese where prayers and Christian religious subjects are not compulsory for Muslims.

Instead of closing the only church and the attached school when Christians fled the region, the diocesan bishop, newly appointed Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has insisted on a more welcoming approach towards Muslim students. Continue reading


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Becoming a “paper muslim” to get married in Egypt

‘You must be Muslim in your heart to get my blessing for your marriage’, her mother told me. As much as I hoped for her blessing I could not promise my heart to something I didn’t understand, I could only promise what I knew – that I would and do love Mariam with all my heart. I cannot lie to those I care about, not even if it’s what they want to hear. This is the story of James who had no choice except lying to the state in order to get social recognition of his love.

Religion and citizenship

In a country where religion, state institution and legislation are strictly bounded, private choices often are subject to a cautious verification process. When personal attitudes and beliefs are regulated by countless bureaucratic steps can they still serve their initial purpose? Stuck in the crowded corridors, piled up on the dusted desks, handwritten countless times by apathetic employees in the official registry books. This is how personal attitudes become institutionalised truths. In such circumstances rule exceptions may be impossible to obtain. Continue reading


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Famiglie ucraine di Bologna: incontro in chiesa e difficoltà del ritorno psicologico

Articoli pubblicati su Redattore Sociale qui, qui e qui

Logo Redattore socialeC’è un angolo di Ucraina nel cuore di Bologna. È la chiesa di San Michele dei Leprosetti, in pieno centro storico: qui si incontrano ogni domenica circa 400 persone, soprattutto donne, per partecipare alla messa in rito greco-cattolico, ma anche per passare un po’ di tempo fra connazionali. “Quando si oltrepassa la soglia della chiesa, sembra di non essere in Italia” dice padre Andriy Zhyburskyy, il sacerdote rettore di San Michele.

“La maggior parte degli immigrati ucraini sono credenti. Alcune donne vengono qui alle 8 di mattina ogni domenica e rimangono fino alle 7 di sera. Tutti qui sono ucraini, preparano il tè, mangiano i piatti tipici”, spiega il rettore. La chiesa non è solo un luogo di culto, ma un posto attorno a cui ruota la vita sociale della comunità: qui si può ricevere sostegno e ascolto, trovare lavoro, educare i propri figli e celebrare insieme sia le feste religiose che quelle laiche, come il giorno dell’Indipendenza dell’Ucraina (il 24 agosto). Nella chiesa di San Michele ci sono anche una biblioteca e una libreria. “Ma non vogliamo creare un muro”, sottolinea padre Zhyburskyy: “Noi siamo parte integrante di Bologna”. Continue reading


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Searching for a dialogue in a desert: hospitality of the Christian community at Mar Musa

Published on EMAJ Magazine

After a lonely and silent climb up the desert mountain, you enter an isolated microuniverse. A group of young people are clearing the table, others are cutting vegetables. Suddenly you are at the table, refreshed after a climb with some water, Syrian bread, tea and goat cheese are brought to the table by a volunteer of unknown nationality. Everyone here takes part in a system which hinges on solidarity.

The ancient monastery Dier Mar Musa el-Habashi of the Syrian Catholic church is located 80km from Damascus and 1320m above sea level. The uniqueness of this place  is due to in its hospitality: open to every visitor, from day trippers who come  to see the 12th and 13 century frescoes to the authentic spiritual pilgrims. Continue reading


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Eiropa – laboratorija nākotnes islāmam

Publicēts Satori

Kāpjot kalnā, jūtams tuksneša ieskauts klusums, un pēc laika tiek sasniegta ieeja izolētā mikropasaulē. Jauniešu grupiņa mazgā koka mēbeles, citi griež dārzeņus. Kāds uzreiz piedāvā jaunajiem viesiem ūdens glāzi, saldo ievārījumu vai sieru ar sīriešu maizi un tēju. Šeit katrs ir lielāka mehānisma daļa, kas darbojas tikai kopībā.

Senais sīriešu katoļu klosteris Dier Mar Musa el-Habaši atrodas 80 kilometrus no Damaskas 1320 metru augstumā. Vietas unikalitāte ir tās viesmīlība un atvērtība katram – sākot no garāmgājēja, kurš ieradies uz pāris stundām aplūkot 11.-12. gadsimta freskas, līdz svētceļniekiem vai jauniešu backpackeru pārim, kas te var pavadīt dienas un nedēļas. Šeit ikdienas darba ritms ir spēcīgi saistīts ar starpreliģiju garīgo dimensiju. Kristiešu mazākuma vieta Sīrijas musulmaņu kopienā ir dialoga radīšana, kopēju konferenču un svētbrīžu organizēšana.

Itāliešu izcelsmes klostera dibinātājs jezuīts tēvs Paulo Dalloljo (Paolo Dall’Oglio) atklājis klostera drupas 1982. gadā, pēc viņa iniciatīvas 1984. gadā uzsāktā restaurācija, kas ar Sīrijas un Itālijas atbalstu, un arābu un eiropiešu brīvprātīgo darbu pabeigta 1994. gadā. Šobrīd klosterī ir divas mūķenes un četri mūki, kā arī to katru dienu apmeklē vairāki desmiti cilvēku no visas pasaules, un šeit var brīvi un par brīvu kopā aizvadīt maltītes un diskusijas, lūgšanu un meditācijas reizes. Continue reading


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Reportage: Mar Musa, Siria. Cercare il dialogo nel deserto

@Ilona-Nuksevica_11Pubblicato su Assaman

C’è silenzio su per la montagna deserta, è un piccolo mondo isolato. Un gruppo di ragazzi pulisce i mobili, un altro taglia le verdure. Alcuni offrono subito ai nuovi arrivati un bicchiere d’acqua, marmellata o formaggio con pane e tè siriano. Qui ciascuno fa parte di un meccanismo più grande che si muove nella solidarietà.

L’antico monastero siriano-cattolico Dier Mar Musa el-Habashi si trova 80km da Damasco, a un’altitudine di 1320m. L’unicità di questo posto sta nella sua accoglienza e apertura a ciascun visitatore: da un passante che viene per un paio d’ore a vedere gli affreschi dell’ XI e XII secolo al pellegrino.
Qui il ritmo del lavoro quotidiano è fortemente immerso nella spiritualità interreligiosa. Le parole di suor DeFayyad sul ruolo della comunità monastica nel contesto più grande della comunità musulmana ce lo confermano: «Che significa la presenza dei musulmani in maggioranza qui? Non è un caso. Noi vogliamo dire che c’è l’amore di Gesù Cristo non solo per qualsiasi persona, ma sopratutto per questa persona nella sua appartenenza alla fede musulmana».
Sentirsi accolti e scambiare idee
La caratteristica più importante di Mar Musa è la giusta relazione tra lo stile di vita monastico, quello laico e l’apertura verso gli altri. Jessica Belding, studentessa statunitense di arabo, pensava di venire qui per risparmiare, ma ha trovato molto di più di quello che si aspettava: “È una proporzione molto buona tra il tempo per preghiere e meditazione e anche per stare insieme con la gente veramente simpatica. Ho visto musulmani che vengono qui e ho parlato con alcuni di loro. È un posto veramente bello per un dialogo reciproco, perché è molto accogliente anche per le persone che non hanno una fede.” Continue reading