In the second week of March, we can see widely a campaign advocating and promoting the ordination of women on social media, supported by women ministers and women's rights activists.
Women ministers are discriminated against in the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), where they are not allowed to be pastors because they are women.
Therefore, women ministers, women rights activists, and the Kachin community have launched a campaign to encourage the ordination of women pastors.
They posted a photo of themselves with the caption ‘#WeSupportWomenOrdinationInKBC’ to advocate the ordination of women pastors. Then there was a surge in both opposition and support. Then, the issues of women and ordination have become a burning loudly topic among Kachin Baptists and communities.
According to the Kachin community, this has been a stand-off issue for the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) for years.
There are women pastors in Baptist Church of other ethnic groups such as Kayin, Chin, and Shan. However, Kachin Baptists women continue to face discrimination and are not permitted to serve as pastors because of their gender.
At the KBC, women ministers may be qualified for ordination as pastors, but they have restricted with the only reason of being women.
Men and women go to Bible school together and learn the same things to serve God. Even though they are standing at the same point to serve God, only men have been ordained as pastors, and women have only been ordained as children’s teachers with minor decision-making and general management.
The Ordination of KBC pastor has been approved by the church, but it is discrimination against the term ‘male minister’ in KBC regulations.
In KBC, women are not allowed to be pastors in religiously principle places because Jesus is a man. And they hold the Bible verse to prohibit becoming a woman pastor. For example, a wife submits her husband as the lord; a woman undergoing menstruation is perceived as impure, and the question of can the process of blessing takes place while a woman is pregnant, etc…
According to the Kachin community, to be ordained a pastor, someone must be at least seven years of service in their related church after attending a Bible study and there are many qualified and experienced women ministers in the Kachin Baptist Convention.
A women’s rights defender, Nan Pu said that other ethnic churches have women pastors. But the Kachin Baptist Church does not have a female pastor, and women ministers were discriminated against by conservative ideas for many years.
She added that there are various conservative ideas related to women pastors. Some people don’t want the blessing of women pastors because they believe women pastors are unclean, and how the menstruation woman pastor baptizes someone and how the pregnant pastor blesses someone.
“When God created man, he created for a woman to menstruate. When menstruation and healthy, we are being able to fulfill the God-given responsibility that is to birth. It is not only cleanable but also beautiful in God’s sight. It is especially valuable to give this responsibility to the women, without giving the men,” Nan Pu said.
These discriminations are the traditional oppression of Kachin Ethnic to their women and should no longer be practiced and should be reformed to make it better, Nan Pu remarked.
Nan Pu said, “Research and the Bible do not say that women should not be ordained. There is a lot of information. Women around the world have been ordained as pastors for several hundreds of years. In Myanmar, other Christian conventions have been giving that for decades. In Kachin, it has not even reached zero.”
The women’s rights defender Daw May Sabai Phyu said that in the Kachin community, the issue of the ordination of female pastors has been a long-standing domestic issue, along with masculinism.
Women ministers are often ignored every time they are presented in the church to ordinate as pastors, and it is a constant discussion between women ministers and women’s rights activists.
Daw May Sabai Phyu said, “Every time we present this, it is not an issue that can be discussed at the forefront now. After the war is over, when gender equality is achieved, that’s come with the territory. It will be able to solve on its own. This is a domestic and social problem in Kachin society. This issue was not to share with others, and then it was sent to the back row.”
In addition, women ministers and campaigners have face verbally sexual harassment as well as allegations of sharing their domestic issues with the world is to force the church.
Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) has 15 associations and 384 churches. It currently has 449 ordained ministers and 790 un-ordained ministers.
KBC wields an enormous political influence on the Kachin people. Because they are not only a religious organization but also are involved in other humanitarian and social activities, including education, healthcare, and public development activities.
KBC always elect the important decision-making position in their convention, including the ordination pastors, with a step-by-step voter appointments election system from members, zones, and districts.
Daw May Sabai Phyu said that although pastors are elected by the members, the female ministers do not have the opportunity to decide on important issues because the ordained pastors are the key members of the KBC executive board. According to the convention policy and constitution, they didn’t allow women to take any position to make the major decision.
“Kachin society is often dominated by masculinism. It may be wrong when the women discuss in the decision-making. Hen’s crowing is not morning. Women should participate as a supporter. Such as there are so many negative senses in people,” she said.
She added that under the Myanmar Baptist Federation, there are various ethnic conventions, including the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), and other ethnic conventions have women ministers as pastors.
Under the same religious beliefs and teaching as the same Christian, other churches placed the positions on women, but Kachin churches didn’t give them. Rather than religious instructions, this is due to differences in leadership practices and standards.
God has told us that we are free to choose our faith and belief, but people discriminate against women and do not give them a place with their own sight and narrow-minded. And I wish the religious leaders may not have this narrow-minded, she said.
Daw May Sabai Phyu said, “We see that the ministers within KBC are not yet ready to accept change in their narrow sights, and we want our society to change well. We are not speaking out against religious teachings. This is a must-be and is in harmony with the Bible verse.”
She added that there would still be many members in KBC who do not accept women pastors because they are being a woman.
There is a discriminatory view, such as some people cannot accept the blessing and marriage of woman pastors because there is no chance to see women pastors in the Kachin community. If there are women pastors and the number increase, it will change members’ bigotry and rooted discrimination, she said her impression.
“I think it can try to gradually change when people’s sight changes during a time. We need to break down that restricted invisible glass ceiling first,” Daw May Sabai Phyu said.
Denying the ordination of women pastors because of being a woman, is gender discrimination and oppression of women and is not in harmony with the Bible, a woman pastor said, who is from a church in Yangon.
She said that this restriction is seen as a violation of human rights. Gender equality and gender discrimination should not be violated in the communities but also in religious communities. So that she is standing with women ministers and campaigners.
The pastor said “In some religious communities, women’s rights are drowned and oppressed in the loss of gender equality, gender discrimination, oppression, and framing. So that I am especially standing with Kachin women from KBC for this violation of women’s rights in Kachin.”
The sister of St. Francis Xavier in Myitkyina, Ann Rose Nuu Tawng said that she does not want to criticize the denial of the ordination of women ministers at the KBC because it depends on the ideology of other churches. But women should be pastors depending on their qualifications.
Sister Nuu Tawng added that she worships in the Catholic Church, and they have qualified and talented women pastors. And anyone who is a woman or man can be a pastor or deacon in their church.
Daw May Sabai Phyu said that there was a time of revolution against the dictatorship. As a member, she can’t accept centralism and dictatorship based on masculinism. During the revolution, we have to fight against all forms of oppression, humiliation, dictatorship, and masculinism at the same time.
“Women can fight on the front lines without fear of being shot by gun-wielding men in this time so that we will eradicate the masculinism system like a dictatorship. If you have a different point, you can say whatever you want. As a woman, we do not want to tolerate any kind of discrimination and bias,” she said sharply.