Friday, October 30, 2009

Against nature?

Some things leave me quite despairing about religion. Buried in almost hidden columns of our newspapers there have been reports of women in Somalia being stopped by the religious priests and told to shake their breasts. If the police then have reason to believe the woman is wearing a bra she is handed over to young men who lash her. Apparently wearing a bra is against nature, a fraud and a deception. The Shabaab Islamic movement in Somalia has banned plays, dance and all forms of music.

I have just been watching a programme on TV following desperate young families escaping similar horrors in Afghanistan by paddling inflatables across the sea to the Greek Island of Lesbos. Many of the young women said they wanted a better life, but above all an education. At home, as women, they are not even allowed to read. I wonder if these women are aware of the history of Lesbos? Sadly, even on Lesbos many of these young women have been beaten by the police. Is there anywhere in the world where policing is not built on violence?

Sadly Christianity has had its own share of this bleak horror. St. Ephraim wrote, "Dancing is the perdition of girls and women, the grief of angels and the joy of devils". St. Charles Borromeo advised three years of penance for women who danced. Canon Law prevented priests from attending the theatre and the law was only repealed in the late 1960's.

Countries like Somalia have multiple, intractable problems. I guess it is easier to check bras than to ensure people have a decent standard of life. Easier to pick on women than confront warlords and corrupt politicians.

And it is always the women who suffer. We never read, religious police have been stopping men in the street and insisting that they shake their testicles. If the police then have reason to believe they are wearing briefs they are lashed. Wearing briefs is against nature. I wonder why?

I really do want my grand daughter to grow up in a world where education is valued, especially for women as it has been shown that societies flourish best that way. A world where dance, music, theatre, books... are promoted in every possible way. A world in which what a person wears or does not wear is entirely their own choice and no concern of anyone else. A world that does not depend upon violence at every level.

May we all help to make it so.


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