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The International Association of Liberal Religious Women invites all women to celebrate the "Centennial Congress".  It will be held in Kochi (Cochin), Kerala State, in India from September 1st to 4th, 2010, when we gather to celebrate our 100th Anniversary as the oldest women's international interfaith organization in the world! The IARF (International Association for Religious Freedom) and the IALRW meet every four years.   The IARF meets immediately following the "Centennial Congress", Sept. 4 - 7.  That conference includes men and welcomes IALRW'ers (meeting in the same location as the "Centennial Congress.")  The venue changes cyclically throughout the four major regions (East Asia, South Asia, North America, and Europe / Middle East), with the theme dependent upon critical issues at the time.

Kathy MatsuiKochi is located on the southwest coast of India. In the state of Kerala, women enjoy a high rate of literacy and high social status. The city of Kochi is also known for its long tradition of religious amity. The major religions are Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. There are also smaller communities of Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Following Hinduism (51%), the Christian population (35%) of Kochi is the largest in India. Since Kochi has such a diverse, multicultural community--where all religious denominations live in peaceful coexistence--one might say that there has never been a conference site more appropriate for interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

The theme of the IALRW conference is "Women in Action." For our key speakers, we will be inviting women from different walks of life who are active in their respective careers, working to nurture care for women and children--especially those in impoverished, difficult circumstances. One of the speakers, Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, is the founder of The Duang Prateep Foundation’s “New Life Project" that helps children who have problems with slum life in Bangkok, Thailand. The children, many of whom have a background of drug abuse, go to a rural center where they are kept active with a mixture of conventional schooling, vocational training, and agricultural work. In addition to learning from our guest speakers at the "Centennial Congress", we plan to conduct study groups on religious cooperation, peace education, ecology, and human dignity. Community visits to various religious institutions are also being planned.

As our IALRW brochure explains, we are religious women who take action, not only to promote friendship and cooperation between like-minded women, but to serve as a channel of communication for those striving for a liberal religious life. We promote economic and social justice, and equality for women. Our activities include projects for disadvantaged women to become self-sufficient.  We strive for world peace. Change is needed in this chaotic world, and we are religious women who have the ability to make a difference for ourselves and others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” “To leave a trail where there is no path” means “to bring about change.” The attitude needed here is one of empathy and global citizenship. According to Mark Gerzon, a leadership trainer and organizational consultant, becoming a global citizen means living according to values that are good not just for ourselves, or for our own tribe or religion, or for our country or region, but good for the whole world. Perhaps, a good starting point for change would be the simple practice of empathy--the caring of one person for another. What is needed is a group of people performing simple acts of empathy and compassion. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We are just ordinary women, but we can take action and contribute to society where we live, and become good global citizens in the process. Working together, we can make this world a better place for everyone. Please plan to join us as we get together in southern India for a grand celebration of our longevity....and help plan our course for the NEXT 100 years!!!  www.ialrw.org


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