Women, poverty and the persecuted church…

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. – James 1:27

Recently I have been researching and reflecting on the circumstances of women around the world. Here are some astonishing statistics from the Poverty is Sexist report from One.org to get you thinking: 

  • Only about 20% of poor rural girls in Africa complete primary education.
  • In many countries women in paid work earn 10–30% less than men.
  • 39,000 girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day.
  • A woman in Sierra Leone is 183 times more likely to die giving birth than a woman in Switzerland.

Some of you might be thinking, “Okay sure, women are more deeply affected by poverty – but what has that got to do with persecuted Christian women?” Well – a lot!

The majority of countries where Christian persecution is most severe, are the same places with extremely high rates of poverty – and gender issues are a big part of that. In fact, recent data by the Weekly Number demonstrates that gender inequality directly correlates to religious freedom – where gender inequality is higher, so is religious persecution. Afghanistan is the highest in both areas – being the fifth worst place to be a christian. Many Christian communities also sit in the lowest and poorest demographic of society.

For example, in India, many Christians live not only as a religious minority, but also in the lowest caste – Dalit – ‘untouchable’. Christians in India often face marginalisation and impoverished living conditions because of their low caste, yet in addition they face persecution because of their faith in Jesus. Families struggle to afford to send their children to school, and even if they manage that, the children are often ostracised at school because they are Christian.

We also see the severe economic and mental pressure of widows and mothers that are left to care for their family if the husband has died or been imprisoned. Often they are unable to find suitable employment and are left to rely on the charity of others or go hungry. For many Christian families, when the husband has been persecuted because of his faith, the family is shunned and left isolated.

So what do we do with these statistics and stories? What should our response be in light of the gospel?

Well for me, it has been a huge conviction and motivation to earnestly and zealously be praying for these sisters around the world who find themselves is very difficult circumstances. It truly is a double vulnerability of being a woman and a Christian in a society that values neither.

What should we pray? Pray that our sisters in Christ around the world know their true identity is in Christ and get to know His goodness more deeply. Pray that these women would be strong in their faith and be able to faithfully witness of God’s love even in a restricted setting. Pray that God would provide for their daily needs and bless their families.

It has also been a wake-up call to just how serious and important the work we do at Open Doors is, particularly with programs that seek to strengthen and empower Christian women. It is a great opportunity to be coming alongside these vulnerable women and giving them the encouragement and support they need to really live out their faith and thrive for Jesus in their homes and communities.

I would love to see even more people, particularly women, with a heart for this vision, and engage with Open Doors Women.

This blog post was written by Marissa, who leads Open Doors Australia’s Women’s Ministry.

Want to get involved? For more information on how to do this please visit www.opendoors.org.au/women or find us on Facebook.
Open Doors Women exists to strengthen and empower Christian women suffering for their faith in Jesus.

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