Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala is Catholic, and her husband Dr Kalpesh Gajiwala is Hindu. Mother of three, she has been living her Christian commitment in an interfaith family for the past 25 years, in a subcontinent where Christians are only 2.3% of the population.
She has committed much of her time to throwing the spotlight on the challenges faced and posed by interfaith marriages, as she encounters them on a daily basis.
Astrid is a scientist and a feminist theologian. She is actively involved in creating policies in the Indian Church for women who form the anawim or “poor ones” – vulnerable, exploited, marginalized. She is a founding member of Satyashodhak, a Mumbai based feminist collective that, since its inception in 1984, has contributed significantly to the empowerment of women in the Indian Church. She is a founding member of the Indian Women’s Theological Forum (IWTF) and former Assistant Co-ordinator for Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA), which bring together women theologians from academia and the grass roots. She conducts sessions on gender sensitization, feminist theology and inter-religious marriage, for seminarians and parish groups and is a resource person for the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) and the Bombay Archdiocesan Women’s Commission. She played a key role in the institution of the CBCI Commission for Women (1992), of which she continues to be a core team member, and the drafting of the bishops’ “Gender Policy of the Church of India” (2010) which she presented at the “Women’s Ordination Worldwide” Conference (2015).
With a Masters in Microbiology, a PhD in Medicine and a diploma in tissue banking, Astrid heads India’s first Tissue Bank which she established in 1988, and she served as India’s Project Co-ordinator for Tissue Banking for the IAEA. She was the first woman President of the Asia Pacific Association of Tissue Banking.
Astrid contributed to the anthology, Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table.
An excerpt from Journeying Into Communion, by Astrid and her husband Kalpesh:
Although I loved Kalpesh, it was not easy making the decision to marry him. I had so many fears, so many questions to which there were no readymade answers. No guarantees. Would I fit into a culture that I had been brought up to believe was inferior? Was I willing to accept the joint family and the loss of self it entailed? How would I cope in a community where women were mostly confined to the home? I couldn’t even understand the language! Then there were the religious expectations …
Listen to Astrid speaking about her interfaith marriage on Vatican Radio.
Listen to Astrid preaching on the Second Sunday of Advent, December 4, 2016 at Catholic Women Preach.
Read Journeying Into Communion by Astrid and Kalpesh.