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OUR SUFFERING SISTERS: THE PLIGHT OF PERSECUTED CHRISTIAN WOMEN AND GIRLS

 Women of diverse races

INTRODUCTORY REMARK AND THOUGHTS

Women are honoured in God’s family, but tragically the experience of many Christian women around the world does not reflect this. Our sisters in Christ who live in places of persecution and pressure may experience a double problem of ill-treatment, in which they suffer for both their faith and their gender. For example, under Islamic sharia law a woman’s testimony has half the legal worth of that of a man, and the testimony of a Christian is worth only half that of a Muslim. So a Christian woman is seen as worth only as a quarter as much a Muslim man. There is a similar sliding scale for compensation due for injuries, with Christian women getting much less than Muslim men for the same injury.

Rimsha Masih

In recent years two high-profile examples of the persecution of Christian women have shocked the world. Both Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl with Down’s syndrome, and Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother, stand falsely accused of “blasphemy” in Pakistan; Aasia has been sentenced to death, and Rimsha still faces trial despite evidence that she was framed. Their lives have been torn apart: even if they were to be acquitted, they and their families might never be safe, as those falsely accused of blasphemy are often murdered after their release.[1] But an extremely vulnerable legal status is only one aspect of the persecution that Christian women can face. They suffer many forms of violence and injustice from non-Christian sources. This article looks at some of the most common kinds of persecution that they endure.

Aasia Bibi

SEXUAL ABUSE

The use of kidnapping, rape and sexual violence against women as a weapon in campaigns against Christian communities is a particularly abominable practice. In Burma (Myanmar), women are especially at risk in the government’s military campaign against  mainly Christian ethnic minorities, who are targeted for both their ethnicity and their faith. The Burmese military has been using sexual violence as a weapon of war in its recent offensive in the territory of the Kachin, who are 90% Christian. Sixty cases of rape were reported[2] between June 2011 and February 2012.

It is very difficult for victims of rape to bring their abusers to justice: a representative from a women’s group in Thailand, where many Burmese Christians have sought refuge, said that the Burmese soldiers appear to have a free rein to “rape and kill ethnic women with impunity”. In Nigeria, the Islamist group Boko Haram threatened in March 2012 to “strike fear into the hearts of Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women”[3]. Often, as here, the abuse of women is not an end in itself but a means of driving out Christian communities.

Protest against sexual abuse

Christian women are similarly at risk in Eritrea, which is ranked among the world’s worst persecutors of Christians. Hundreds of Christians flee the country each month. Women seeking to escape harassment and the threat of imprisonment in their homeland face severe dangers as refugees. They have to put themselves in the hands of people-smugglers, and many are taken hostage for ransom by Muslim Bedouin nomads in the Sinai Desert as they seek to make their way, via Egypt, to safety in Israel. There they are often subject to sexual assault and severe beatings.

Christian women may be forced by crushing poverty to work as domestic workers in the homes of people who are hostile to them, putting them at risk of sexual and other violence. For example, Pakistani Christian women may have no choice but to work in a Muslim household. Here they are in an isolated and vulnerable position, and some may even have to take their children to work with them. Christian women may also be seen as having loose morals, as some associate them with the women they see in films and other media from the “Christian” West.[4] This may be used as a justification for attacking them.

Zubaida Bibi

It is not only domestic workers who are in danger at work. Zubaida Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother of four children, was brutally killed by a Muslim colleague in October 2011. After Zubaida resisted the man’s attempts to rape her at the factory where they worked, he pulled out a dagger and slit her throat. Zubaida’s grieving husband said, “I want justice…My wife was an innocent and noble lady. She was working for our children”.

[Caption Account: In a particularly brutal attack, a grandmother from the predominately Christian Kachin ethnic group in Burma was gang-raped and tortured by Burmese soldiers in May 2012. The 48-year-old woman was hiding in a church building when troops invaded her village. The soldiers who found her there beat her with rifle butts, stabbed her with knives, stripped her and gang-raped her over a period of three days. After the soldiers left, she was found semi-conscious by some villagers and taken to hospital. She has been reunited with her family, but the horrific ordeal has left her deeply traumatised and mentally disturbed.]

Burma map

FORCED MARRIAGE AND CONVERSION

Although sexual assault is not lawful in Islam, some Muslim men believe that the kidnap, rape and forced marriage of Christian girls is an exception. Muslims also consider that a wife automatically follow the religion of her husband, and that all the children of such a marriage will do the same, so marrying or impregnating Christian girls can be seen as a means of spreading Islam, and a financial reward may be offered for doing so.

Barnabas Aid recently received a report that in one high school in East Africa, twelve Christian girls were made pregnant by Muslim boys in three months; three of them are the daughters of pastors. The boys are reported to be paid $50 AUD to impregnate a Christian girl.

Pakistan and Egypt have been ranked as the two worst places to be a Christian woman in terms of the number of reported attacks on them.[5] Christian women and girls in these countries are in danger not only of kidnap and sexual assault, but also of then being forced to convert to Islam and marry their Muslim abductors. A person is considered to be a Muslim after simply reciting the Islamic creed, even when forced to do so. Disturbingly, this trend is growing; it is estimated that there are now over 700 such cases every year in Pakistan.[6] In Egypt, a recent report suggests that Christian women and girls have become more vulnerable to such incidents since the so-called “Arab Spring”.

Pakistani Christian woman grieving

The report’s title, Tell My Mother I Miss Her, is a quote from a recording of a telephone call that one victim managed to make to her family. In Egypt and Pakistan, a woman’s religious status is changed from Christian to Muslim on her identity card after her forced marriage. The report says that four lawyers in Egypt collectively report 550 cases brought over a five-year period by women wishing to restore their Christian identity following disappearances, forced marriages and forced conversions.

The authorities in Pakistan and Egypt will rarely exert themselves to protect women from this devastating practice or prosecute the abductors, and a victim’s family may be told that she has converted and married of her own freewill. A recent UN report found that in the contexts where such forced marriages occur, “law enforcement agencies systematically fail to provide effective protection for women and girls”.

Women converts from Islam to Christianity are also at severe risk of violence, even from their own family. While Christians of both genders from Islamic backgrounds are targeted, women are even more vulnerable because the family honour is seen more dependent upon them. When they leave Islam, any measure may be taken against them to remove the shame brought on the family by their conversion. Converts may even be killed by the members of their family.[7]

Dont kill Christians

[Caption account: In November 2011, a Pakistani Christian woman escaped from a ten-year ordeal in which she was abducted, married to her abductor and held captive. Nadia Naira was 15 years old when she was taken at gunpoint and forcibly converted to Islam, again at gunpoint, two days later. Her husband threatened to kill her and her family if she went to the police, and although her family immediately reported the incident, the authorities refused to arrest him.[8] Nadia’s husband continued to be violent to her and became a drug addict.[9] During her captivity, she gave birth to five of his children before she was eventually able to escape.]

FORCED COMPLIANCE WITH RELIGIOUS NORMS

Christian women in areas where other religions are in a powerful majority are also at risk of being forced to comply with codes of behaviour or practices that are not their own. Sharia law enforces strict dress codes on women and imposes other restrictions, such as forbidding them to go out without a close male family member. Christian women may be subject to violent punishment if they do not comply with these rules. After northern Mali was taken over by Islamist rebels in early 2012, women were forced to wear the hijab and raped as Christians were driven from their homes.

Sudanese Christian women praying

Christian women in strongly Islamic Sudan are also vulnerable. They have long been subject to imprisonment or barbaric corporal punishment for wearing trousers in public or not wearing the hijab. Since the mainly Christian South became independent in 2011, Sudan’s president has threatened to enforce sharia law even more strongly, claiming the country’s new constitution will be one that is “100% Islamic” and that “serves as a template to those around us”.

In some countries, a female convert from Islam may be unable to marry a Christian-background man, because if her conversion is not legally recognised she is still viewed as a Muslim woman. Sharia forbids a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man, and some countries follow the same rule.

Christian women and girls who have converted from traditional African religions may still be vulnerable to being forced into polygamous marriages to much older men, or being subject to female circumcision in accordance with traditional teaching.

Our sisters in Christ suffer greatly owing to these and other forms of persecution. Please pray that persecuted Christian women will be protected from abuse and strengthened in their faith, and that they will know the Lord’s peace despite the pressure they face.

PAKISTAN-UNREST-RELIGION

[Caption account: Silva Kashi, a Christian girl aged 16, was walking near her home in Khartoum, Sudan, in December 2009 when she was arrested by police for wearing a knee-length skirt. Sharia law was and is in force in Khartoum and is applied to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Silva was immediately brought before a judge, who sentenced her to 50 lashes. Her parents were not even aware that she had been arrested until after the punishment had taken place.]

HOW ARE WOMEN VIEWED IN THE BIBLE?

Bible and Cross

In the New Testament, women are affirmed as of equal worth to men. This equally is first suggested in Genesis, when God “created humankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27 –NRSV). Our Lord Jesus Christ strongly confirmed it by His actions. Flouting the social conventions of His time, Jesus invited women into His circle of followers. He shocked contemporaries by speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:27), and He praised Mary for listening to His teaching rather than preparing food as was expected of her (Luke 10:38-42). He defended the actions of the woman who poured expensive perfume over Him at Bethany, saying that “wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13). After His resurrection, He showed Himself first to a woman, Mary Magdalen (John 20:10-18).

Barnabas Aid

(Source: Barnabas Aid – January-February 2013 Edition)


[1] It seems that in Pakistan even if one is innocent of a charge it is immaterial, the fact that one is breathing and living is enough of an offence to warrant death by angry Pakistani Muslims, especially when they are non-Muslims! Such behaviour and actions are a blasphemy against God on three counts; first for stealing another person’s right to live which is a gift bestowed by God who is the only One who deems when that life is to be taken; secondly the point of injustice and false witness, for even when a person is proven to be innocent of a false charge but is killed anyway, it is an offence before the mercy and justice of God; thirdly and most importantly, that such actions are conducted in the name of God and for His glory is the gravest blasphemy of all. And it is to this, that the nation of Pakistan and the advocates of such evil should be tried for and sentenced for, in accordance to their blasphemous blasphemy law!

[2] Question is, how many were not reported?

[3] If anything, such actions show how faithless, weak and cowardly adherents of any specific religion are when they resort to such violent intimidation and terrorism towards others to show how right their beliefs are. History has usually shown such persons are the first to run away from the battlefield in real war situations since they attack others using only hit and run tactics like a bunch of depraved and cowardly pirates. And note how such people target civilian and weak targets that cannot defend themselves or fight back….Surely that is an affirmation of the strength of a religion which can strike fear into others, such courage and nobility of parasitical scum!

[4] This of course is ironic given that the West is no longer Christian but atheist and secularist, for it has turned away from its Christian origins. But such views still pervade in other parts of the world, which see the West as depraved and morally bankrupt. There are multitudes within many parts of the world which would relish abusing or killing Westerners should the chance arise, because such persons would believe it was their moral duty to rid the earth of the very persons who sully humanity and human life with immorality. However the persons who pay the price for such perceptions are not Westerners but Christians indigenous to the given place in question, usually in Middle Eastern, Asian or African countries.

[5] I suppose to the readers that comes as of no surprise given the evil and degenerate mentality that pervades Egyptian and Pakistani society, and to which is perpetuated by politically ambitious “genocidal” imams who are drugged on the false notion of the “golden days of the Caliphate”!

[6] Probably another world first and record in misanthropy to which Pakistan can lay claim to with “pride”. But rest assured they do believe in equal opportunities in treating others with contempt, one only has to ask any Bangladeshan who fought for independence from Pakistan, especially the Bangladeshan Muslim women who were rounded up to “serve” the Pakistani military forces!

[7] This of course has a religious foundation within Islam, since there are many verses in the Quran and within the Hadiths, as well as the body of Sharia Law which not only condones the killing of a Muslim apostate, but advocates it as the only means for their salvation and exhorts all Muslims to kill apostates wherever they find them.

[8] What a surprise, and in Pakistan too, go figure! –Yes that’s sarcasm!

[9] Truly a model Muslim! -Where was the local sheikh to rake this vile young man over the coals for violating one of the key Islamic principles regarding drug and alcohol abuse!

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