Catholicos Baselios Thomas I, head of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, has in a recent circular instructed the Church members to provide 35% reservation for women in key Church forums like the diocesan and parish committees in keeping with the significant contributions made by them in areas like promotion of spirituality and charitable activities.
The contributions by women members of the Church are most visible through the activities of the Martha Mariam Vanitha Samajam, a spiritual organisation for women. It had been a constant demand of the women Church members to give them sufficient representation in Church committees, the Catholicos said in his official communication.
He said it was a fact that women had not been given due importance in Church administration even as it was the requirement of the times that they be recognised. Women should not be kept away from any of the Church forums as their contributions to building the future of the Church were so valuable.
The Catholicos said that 35% reservation for women in Church forums was recommended by the Jacobite Syrian Christian Association in 2012. The recommendation was accepted and approved by the synod of the Church. A circular callining for the implementation of the decision was issued in 2016, the Catholicos said. Since there was a delay in implementing the decision, another round of instructions were sent out.
The circular noted that some dioceses had already implemented the decision of the synod at least partially. He specially congratulated these dioceses and instructed the Church members to implement the decision fully in the upcoming annual general meetings of parish committees as well as at the church and diocesan level committees.
The diocesan and parish committees were powerful bodies, which took decisions on issues ranging from the running of educational and other institutions to day-to-day administration, including approval of new projects, said a senior member of the Jacobite Church. He said there had been, in the past, some objections to the decision to provide 35% reservation to women. These objections rose most vociferously from big parishes where parish committee membership elections were strongly contested.
At the same time, the organisations ran exclusively by women, such as the Martha Mariam Samajam, were forums that functioned efficiently, said the Church member. He said under these circumstances, the objections to providing women significant representation in powerful Church forums were seen wearing thin.