I have returned from Oslo yesterday, but I was too busy until now.
The Oslo Workshop was an invaluable experience of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and proved to be very stimulating and informative for all of us involved. The workshop was held in a historic hotel with traditional settings about 20 km out of Oslo. The antique Persian carpets covering most of the rooms caught our eyes.
We began with an introductory session on Sunday evening , during dinner. The participants were given a warm welcome by Mr Bondevik and Mr Khatami and each person was given the chance to introduce themselves. I spoke about the importance of the event and about the coincidence with the Woman's Day event and the Resolution 1820 of the Security Council which was issued a few days ago and which considers sexual abuse of women in war to be a war crime and crime against humanity.
I also spoke about the importance of exchanging experiences and how certain practices prove effective in changing perceptions on women. I mentioned the case of the Indonesian President Megawati and how she was allowed to first become Vice-President on the basis of the fact that a woman in Iran had been appointed as Vice-President.
The workshop began at 9 on Monday with the opening speeches and I moderated the first and major panel that we had . I spoke on the different views that existed on women's status and rights in Islam and the West and the fact that intra-cultural and religious dialogue was also important. I referred to my resource paper on Natural Peace : The Feminine Factor and noted that compassion is lacking at the level of global politics in today's world. However, I noted that certain women politicians who believe in the power of compassion are still available and then I described the experience I had in dealing with Mrs. Halonen as she was the Finnish Foreign Minister and I was the Iranian Vice President and I invited her to come to Iran when it was still difficult for Europeans to visit Iran but she accepted and came and that had a very positive effect on our relations with Europe and the rest of the world. She maintained those relations when she became President , an office that she still retains today.
We had many informative presentations during the workshop.Dr. Koolae from Iran spoke about the challenges she faced as an MP with traditionalists who did not allow modifications of the marital law to maintain an equitable gender balance. We had two Reverends from the US who spoke on the importance of religious dialogue with the context of the globalization trends. Lena Larsson represented Muslim minorities living in Europe and she spoke eloquently about their challenges and hopes. Sadiq Al Mahdi the former Sudanese Prime Minister noted in his speech that we face three categories of thought on issues like the rights and status of women. The first group are the reactionaries who do not accept any dynamism in religious jurisprudence.
The second are the secular who totally reject religion and take a westernized approach on the issue and third are those who see Islam as a religion with principles taken from revelation but also dynamic in accepting human interpretation and integrating the rulings with the requirements of time and place ,while preserving the principles.
We had some interesting developments in the afternoon. I will post another report on that section shortly.