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Lenten Focus: Christian women and girls in restricted countries

For more on my Lenten Focus, see my Ash Wednesday post. A quick summary is that I am spending Lent fasting and praying for the Persecuted Church and I invite you to join me.


While being a Christian in restricted nations is difficult for all believers, Christian women face additional dangers and challenges. In most of these nations, their rights are already greatly diminished simply because they are women. They are tied to their families in ways that men are usually not, and converts face additional dangers if they try to leave their homes.

A few stories illustrate the hard situation Christian women may face.

I’ve already highlighted the case of Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who was initially sentenced to death for both apostasy and adultery. Apostasy: because even though she was raised a Christian, her father who abandoned his family when Meriam was a child was Muslim. Adultery: because her marriage to a Christian man was ruled invalid because the court claimed she was a Muslim. Fortunately, after a great deal of international pressure, she was released and is now living with her family in America.

In 2008, Voice of the Martyrs reported that a member of the Saudi Arabian religious police cut his daughter’s tongue out and burned her to death because she converted to Christianity. There are many stories like this, and most are never known.

In a (emotionally) difficult to read, but very informative and important article, “Gender-Based Violence as an Expression of Christian Persecution in Muslim Lands” (pdf download), author Lela Gilbert, notes:

“General sexual abuse against women provides the backdrop against which specific sexual abuse of Christian women and children is acted out. It is estimated that “over 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith.” It seems safe to assume that half of these Christians are female. That amounts to 100 million women and girls, and a large percentage of them live in Muslim majority countries where gender abuse is already rampant. When it is used to target Christians, the abuse is intensified, aggravated and more deadly.”

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  1. Kidnapping and forced marriages, which compel Christian girls to convert to Islam.
  2. Honor killings, frequently due to a conversion from Islam to Christianity, presumed “westernization” or the accusation of illicit sex or other “sinful” behavior.
  3. Domestic violence, which is commonplace in Muslim households. In the case of a Christian wife (likely a convert from Islam) may be intended to correct “unIslamic” practices such as Christian prayers, Bible reading, attending Bible Study or church.
  4. Rape, the causes of which are generally identified as sexual gratification, rage, power and sadism, is also used to deflower young Christian women and force them to marry their Muslim rapists – or be killed.
  5. Biased legal judgments in which Christian rape victims are required by law to produce Muslim male witnesses of the incident; the reporting of a rape that cannot be verified by male Muslim eyewitnesses – and few can – means women risk imprisonment or violent death for “adultery.”
  6. Physical abuse for Christian girls not covering their heads or otherwise wearing “provocative” clothing in mixed neighborhoods or communities. The consequences of women’s unIslamic dress may include beatings, rapes or having acid thrown in their unveiled faces, which is becoming a common form of assault.
  7. Blasphemy accusations – bearing in mind that a woman’s testimony is worth ½ of a man’s and therefore she has no defense. Blasphemy is often the accusation in cases that reflect property disputes, attempted embezzlement, personal vendettas and other unrelated offenses.
  8. Marginalization or exploitation of women who are either widowed or left on their own because of their husbands’ imprisonment, disappearance or death.
  9. Vulnerability of Christian girls and women, who are especially defenseless because Christian communities tend to be less vindictive and more easily intimidated than their Islamic neighbors; Muslim abusers have what they perceive as free license to mistreat them.

All believers face persecution and hardship in large parts of the world, but for Christian women, those hardships are multiplied. Pray for their protection, for faithfulness in the face of violence and oppression, and for relief and justice for not just Christian women, but all women in the Muslim world.

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