Cross-Cultural Women Encounter on Understanding Symbols in Religions

Report: Understanding   Symbols  of Religions  by Painting Workshop                 

Women Encounter Women /Kvinder møder kvinder to mark the observance of UN World Interfaith Harmony Week   

(February 23, 2019) Women Encounter Women is an event, offered to women of different cultural and religious backgrounds every last Saturday of the month. They meet around agreed scheduled activities, for example:

  • cooking food (learning new recipe)
  • flower arrangement
  • beauty parlor around services like
  • massage,
  • haircut,
  • hairstyling,
  • feet massage,
  • manicure family excursion
  • or a presentation of an  invited expert on child  nurture and on other study themes
  • or subjects or sharing and understanding certain cultural and religious traditions or marking special or historical celebrations,
  • touching issues in time that call for common reflection…

Women Encounter Women has a committee that regularly meets to receive suggestions, plan and evaluate activities. A program in both English and Danish language is produced by this committee every six months and is made available to women, churches and social media. The purpose of Women Encounter Women (Kvinder møder kvinder) on this the leaflet information:  (See no. 1 supporting document): to build up a fellowship of women for support and integration, to raise women’s consciousness on issues and problems in local and global society, to aim at being active responsible citizens through sharing and learning from each other, to share one’s own faith in meeting with other religions.

On February 23, the committee decided to focus on World Interfaith Harmony Week using one afternoon for women through Painting Workshop. The task was to paint a symbol of their own religion and share its meaning. They could also decide to paint  images of love, peace, harmony and compassion as values which UN World Inter Faith Harmony Week stands for. Elizabeth led the workshop with the help of two women in the committee- Bente from DK  and Saloumeh from Iran. The afternoon started with coffee and tea, cakes and fruits, singing of international songs of welcome and fellowship, words of information on World InterFaith Harmony Week, and instructions related to Painting Workshop. Because of the construction going on at Simon Peters Hus, we moved the activity to Simon Peters Church, just 3 minutes’ walk from the first planned venue.

Women from the following countries joined: India, Philippines, Thailand, Iraq, Denmark, USA, Iran, Hungary and Latvia. Some women came with their children. Represented religions among the group were: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. There was given time to work on an exercise to identify symbols in different religions and share meanings behind these symbols. (See no. 2  supporting document).
The Calendar of Holy Feasts  (fest-og helligedage 2019, no. 3 supporting document)  was also provided to give women knowledge on the time schedules of important religious observances in following religions:

  • Christianity in three denominations,
  • Hinduism,
  • Buddhism,
  • Jewish
  • and Islam.
Calendar was a resource material we got from Tværkulturelt Center in Copenhagen. Painting materials were also provided: canvases of 20x20 cm and 30x30 cm sizes,  paints, paint brushes and other accessory materials. The task was to paint a symbol from their own religion or an image or motif for their painting that reflects the values for which UN World Interfaith Harmony Week stands for.

Impact: It was an eye-opener for women to know and understand symbols of other religions other than their own, and a good time to be given a voice to share about one’s own religion. It was helpful and relevant to get hold of a calendar that informs the date for example, Ramadan or dates of the birthday of Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna or Buddha or different dates for New Year celebrations in different religions in 2019. To some women it was their first time to hold canvas or brush. It was fun and relaxing to do creative activity and get the time to talk with each other while painting and sharing some materials with one another; a good break from their daily routines at home and at work and a bridge of friendship with other women. Children also did their own paintings alongside with their mothers and demonstrated a long attention span of interest in the activity. There were 25 paintings produced during this event, which participants could take home, and which could possibly find a place in their own homes as decoration - a possible reminder on what happened on February 23 and on the first week of February each year. Women Encounter Women is one of the monthly activities of the Cross Cultural Ministry of Kolding Deanery. It is also a network of support for women: immigrants, foreign students, refugees, Danes and new Danes.

For many of them, it was their first time to hear about FNs World InterFaith Harmony Week and get the chance to partly observe it by creative activity through Painting Workshop and on the process, learn about other religions and the meaning of their symbols. See photos. There were women who did not wish to be in the photos.

Supporting Documents: 

1.Brochure on Women Encounter Women 2. An exercise on Symbols of Religions 3. Calendar of Feasts of Religions 4.Photos from the event: Understanding Religions in Painting Workshop

Images for this event