Conference: Género Economía Violencia - day 2

Day 2 of the Conference began with worship during which we listened to the following story, before being invited to select and consider just one word of the passage:
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go, the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark7.24-30)

We talked about how Jesus and the woman meet on the borders between man and woman, Judea and Tyre, insider and outsider. And how even Jesus seems trapped within the boxes and roles assigned to him. But, the passage tells us, the woman answered him. She resists, refusing to be 'kept in her place.' With one word, 'even' she announces the possibility of change. Her transgressive action enables Jesus to meet her on new ground.

In the afternoon, members of the Toba community, an indigenous group from the Chaco that spans the boundaries of Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, talked about their relationship with the land and the gospel. At times, Margarita fell silent as she struggled to tell us of the destruction of her people through violence and economic marginalization, through cultural oppression and the taking of land. Early missionaries has used the Bible's promises of land and heaven as a means to persuade the Toba to give up their land to European settlers. Yet, Margarita was able to tell us of new readings of the Bible through the monthly ecumenical Bible School that ISEDET supports. The Toba people had been able to identify with Abraham and the promises made to him - promises of land, of descendants and of God's presence. The promise that there will descendants, Margarita told us, gives the Toba people courage that they will not disappear. The same book, the same community but two different readings. How can we ensure our readings of the Bible are life giving for all, particularly those marginalized?

We ended the day with a photo exhibition on women traders at Asuncion's fruit and vegetable markets. Mabel Avila, a Columbian photographer based in Asunción, Paraguay, told us about the long tiring days of the women she had photographed. Too poor to rent a permanent stand at the market, they walked from early morning to late at night, using their bodies as a stall for the fruit and vegetables they sold. Despite this, the women looked into the camera with strength and smiles, determined to survive in the heat and dust of their daily lives.

Image of Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth at Tate Modern.