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This issue of SIDIC hopes to make a small but original contribution to the current discussion on the place and role of woman in society. We believe that Jews and Christians, on the basis of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, have something special to say about this question. Obviously, as human history shows, relations between persons and particularly between man and woman have always been decisively determined by social conditions, in which religious convictions also play an important role. It can even be stated that religion has often strengthened and sanctioned social patterns. In our time we have become acutely aware of the numerous injustices which exist in human relations. One area, and perhaps the most basic one, in which many forms of discrimination are found is the relationship between male and female. The biological, psychological and other differences between man and woman have often been understood in terms of superiority and inferiority; the discriminatory consequences of that fact are so deeply rooted in history that this situation has been considered as « normal ».
It is therefore amazing that the people of Israel could proclaim even three thousand years ago, the religious conviction that man and woman are equal: « So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them » (Gen. 1:27). It could do so only because of its exceptional experience of God, to whom it was linked by the covenant and whom it recognized as the only one God. Biblical monotheism provides a religious basis for human equality. Jews and Christians share this vision of man. But daily life is not composed of highlights of religious experience and sublime expressions of faith. Jews and Christians are subject to the vicissitudes of historical development also. The realization of the ideal always remains in the future.
The historical discrimination against women is linked to a distorted view of the human person. The growing concern for justice and freedom, the increasing emphasis on pluralism are, no doubt, a good basis for the fight against discrimination. But equality in diversity among human beings, especially between man and woman, will not be reached unless the dignity and the mystery of the human person are rediscovered and respected.
Jews and Christians have here a particular responsibility. The sources of their faith can help them to build a society in which the endless variety among men and women, in absolute equality, reflects the infinite riches and beauty of the one God.