ATLANTA – Former President Jimmy Carter says religious leaders, including those in Christianity and Islam, share the blame for mistreatment of women across the world.
Carter said Friday that religious authorities perpetuate misguided doctrines of male superiority, from the Catholic Church forbidding women from becoming priests to some African cultures mutilating the genitals of young girls.
Carter said the doctrines, contribute to a political, social and economic structure where political leaders passively accept violence against women, a worldwide sex slave trade and inequality in the workplace and classroom.
“There is a great aversion among men leaders and some women leaders to admit that this is something that exists, that it’s serious and that it’s it troubling and should be addressed courageously,” Carter told an international conference on women and religion.
The 39th president is hosting representatives from 15 countries at The Carter Center, the human rights organization he launched in 1982 after leaving the White House.
The Mobilizing Faith for Women event emphasizes to world leaders that religious institutions can be forces for equality, he said.
Nations represented at the Carter conference include Afghanistan, Botswana, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal and the Sudan. Carter mentioned widespread oppression in many nations where iterations of Islam dominate, but also had criticism for the developed Western world where Christianity is the strongest cultural influence.
A common thread, he said, is “gross abuses of religious texts in the Koran and in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. Singular verses can be extracted and extorted to assert the singular dominance of men.”
Referring to the Christian apostle Paul, credited with writing much of the New Testament outside the gospels, he said, “Paul said there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, slaves or masters, man or woman.”
The former president noted that the early Christian Church included leaders of both sexes. It wasn’t until a few centuries after Jesus Christ’s time on earth, he said, that leaders of what would become the Roman Catholic Church established the exclusively male priesthood.