New Chair of the Parliament Women's Task Force Shares What Inspirations Drive Her Work
The Parliament is proud to spotlight a woman without limits, who this year takes on yet another major responsibility in an already busy life. An ordained minister, activist, doctoral student, mother, and member of the Parliament Board of Trustees, Crystal McCormick is contributing everything she has to achieving justice around the world.
In 2016, Crystal Silva McCormick was appointed chair of the Parliament Women's Task Force after serving as one of three Parliament trustees to create the biggest women's event in interfaith history.
The Inaugural Women's Assembly held at the 2015 Parliament, deepened by the full track of women-led programming, plenary, and worship, has cracked open a new world of possibilities for interfaith organizing through the advancement of women. With Crystal's direction, the Parliament Women's Task Force will begin reaching even further for opportunities to promote unheard women around the world who sacrifice without recognition serving their countries and communities with life-changing activism. Expanding the women's platform will mean increasing the participation of women from minority faith and spiritual traditions, and the promoting opportunities for women defying oppressive systems with interfaith and life-risking advocacy to communicate with the women's interfaith community around the world.
Learn more about Crystal's vision on reclaiming global women's dignity and human rights, and how the Parliament inspired her, in the candid Q&A that follows.
Q: What inspired you after joining the Parliament Board of Trustees the Parliament to work with the Women's Task Force?
Women's rights and advocacy for women have always been central to my vocation and in my own life. So, having the privilege to work with the Women's Task Force - being able to hear the voices of strong and resilient women, and to see women coming together in the name of peace and in the name of changing the world was what inspired me. There is something so powerful when women come together that is almost indescribable. There is also no doubt that I was inspired by the work of women who have been hard at work to pave a path for women in the interfaith world.
Q: What does becoming Chair of the Women's Task Force in 2016 mean to you - a woman of faith, mother, scholar, and theologian?
Serving as chair of the Women's Task Force is a profound joy and privilege that fills me with a sense of gratitude and an urgency. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with a team of women to provide a unique space where women are empowered by one another - by their stories, their strength, and their unique abilities to tap into the forces of love and peace. As a woman, this type of sacred space is not only life-giving, it is crucial, particularly in the realm of the religious and the spiritual. It is a well known fact that many, many of our spiritual traditions have and do fail to honor the full humanity of women in a variety of ways. Women around the globe - from various cultures and various religious traditions - continue to pave paths for women to rise up against oppression and experience equality within their own contexts. Serving on the Women's Task Force will as a woman and a mother is quite meaningful, as there are often challenges to juggling being a present parent and vocation, so having the opportunity to serve in this capacity is meaningful to me as a woman and as a mother, as I hope that my children see the importance of women's empowerment and understand that women face unique barriers in this life, due to their gender. It is also particularly meaningful to me to serve in this role, as one whose vocation is focused on interfaith peace building. I am always inspired and greatly moved when I am able to see and experience interfaith the fruits of interfaith engagement. The work of the Parliament embodies are great deal of my own commitments in my academic work, my spiritual life, and even in my commitments are a feminist.
Q: What message do you hope women and men alike took away from the 2015 Parliament, and what kind of momentum would you like to support going forward in future interfaith activities and events?
I think the message both men and women took away was that while they remain a group that are oppressed, globally, they are also resilient, fierce, and at the fore of ushering in peace and challenging oppressive systems and structures. The momentum we as the Parliament need to help foster and support is one of an urgency to bring women's issues to the fore as a priority for religious communities around the world, as well as a continuing celebration of women and the contributions they make to religious communities and to the world as a whole.
Q: What achievements in the interfaith, religious or IGO/NGO communities that address the human dignity and rights of women and girls bring to light the kind of impact we want to see after gatherings like the Inaugural Women's Assembly?
We often measure achievements in terms of a particular lens or definition of productivity or national or global recognition, but the fact is that there are women that have been achieving remarkable feats in overturning oppressive structures and in peace building, though they often do not receive the recognition they merit. Take for example the Kurdish women who have been fighting ISIS in order to protect their communities and their very livelihood - they are not an NGO or IGO, but they are women who fight oppression on a number of levels that most of us will never comprehend.
Q: What outcomes of the Faith In Women programming at the 2015 Parliament do you think speak to how the women's track is inspiring action and change?
I had several encounters with women at the Parliament that spoke to the power of the women's programming at the Parliament. Women of various faith traditions gathered to talk and to meditate and pray in the red tents that were part of the Parliament, Jewish and Muslim women were having conversations about their respective religions, and what especially stood out to me was the moment that we all watched the One Billion rising film, I turned to look at the women gathered and not only were they all holding up their fingers [in solidarity with the One Billion Rising movement] and many had tears streaming down their faces. These points of contact were moments that will sit in my heart and in the hearts of those who experienced them, and can only bear the fruits of empowerment and of friendship and peace. Even more, the moment during the One Billion Rising video underscored what all women know so deeply; specifically, that our lived experiences as women are one of many things that knit us close to one another.
Take for example Berta Caceres. Berta, a Honduran human rights and environmental activist was recently killed because she was such a powerful force for change. Berta is but one example of a powerful woman whose work and life's commitments should be lifted up and lauded - she is a phenomenal example of underrepresented women who are making remarkable changes for peace in this world and for the care and preservation of the Earth. While Berta is lauded and celebrated globally, we do not often hear about remarkable women who, like Berta, work tirelessly on behalf of [their] oppressed communities and who come from underrepresented groups and regions of the world. This is certainly because there still remains a strong imbalance of power among the nations of the world and within nations, as well. Underrepresented groups around the globe and within the United States often struggle to have their voices heard, so an emphasis on women who come from underrepresented groups is particularly important as the interfaith world strives to do its part in shifting the imbalance of power; and, one way of doing this is to bring the voices of underrepresented groups to the fore. And, when we are looking at women's status around the world, we need to make space for underrepresented groups to speak for themselves, especially on women's issues. This way, women who tend to have more privilege and therefore more power are not the ones dominating the conversation about women's issues, thus stripping other women of their power and voice, and it helps the conversation about women's issues to begin to shed the remnants of colonialism and maternalism.
Q: Who is your 'SHero" - and why?
My SHero is Aurelia Silva. Aurelia was my grandmother and she lived with my family until she died when she was 96 and I was 16. She raised 11 children as a single mother and made her way to the United States and began a restaurant in El Paso, Texas. She did not have higher than an elementary school education, but was brave, intelligent, wise, and very deeply spiritual. It is without a doubt, that she planted in me seeds of faith that have led me to walk my own spiritual journey and to appreciate and admire the spiritual journeys of others. Her greatest acts were serving meals for the homeless out of her own kitchen. I have vivid memories of her making those meals and strangers coming in and out of her home when I was small. This left an indelible mark on my own spirituality, as watching her in action was watching faith in action. There are many women like Aurelia whose wisdom and life works and achievements will never grace the pages of prestigious journals or publications, but stand to be the strength that build and heal communities around this world.