News Worldwide | 04 March 2024

‘I will never be the same again’—the violent insecurity Christian women face


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New report identifies violent insecurity as key factor in gender-specific religious persecution

[Warning: The beginning story contains details of an attack that may be difficult or triggering to some readers. Please read with caution.]

A graphic video captures the nightmare of May 4, a day after primarily ethnic violence erupted in India’s Manipur State between the Kuki tribe and the Meiteis. The video showed two Christian women (called Glory and Mercy, of the majority Christian Kukis) as they were forced to walk naked through a large Meitei mob—shortly before they were reportedly gang-raped. “I was treated like an animal,” one of the victims shared. Both Glory and Mercy had to flee their homes, forced into hiding. 

In 84% of the countries on the World Watch List, faith-based forced marriage was identified as a risk for Christian women and girls.

2024 Gender Report
Throughout the world, the horrific and abusive situation that Christian women like Glory and Mercy endured is often marked by an environment of insecurity. 

New research from Open Doors on gender-specific religious persecution (click for the full report) reveals that contexts of violent insecurity (including religiously targeted violence, armed conflict and criminal violence) compound existing vulnerabilities and exacerbate certain forms of gender-specific religious persecution. The decision to follow Jesus adds yet another layer of vulnerability. 

The new report notes that where Christian persecution is already prevalent, situations with high levels of violence can create further opportunities for targeting Christians. While no setting is ever completely secure and safe, the report finds that 21 of the countries on Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List—a ranking of the 50 most dangerous places for Christians—suffer from situations of violent insecurity. 

5 key findings: 

No. 1 Insecure contexts create significant consequences, with impoverishment, forced displacement (people must flee their homes due to conflict, violence, disasters, etc.) and a normalization of violence being three of the most common and most damaging. 

No. 2 Religious minorities are often heavily impacted by displacement contexts. In October 2023, experts shared that in northern Nigeria, Fulani extremists attacked and raped 11 women while they were searching for firewood—only a few kilometers from their informal IDP camp. The women and their families had been displaced from their homes because of Fulani attacks on their villages. The combination of being female and part of an ethno-religious community made them highly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence.

No. 3 Conflict-related sexual violence continues to be pervasive, both as a weapon of war and as an indirect consequence of increased instability. Examples of sexual violence that may happen in conflict include rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization and forced marriage. 
An Open Doors regional expert noted that in areas like Cameroon where armed conflicts and religious tensions continue, Christians can face a heightened risk of violence and exploitation. “Female members of the Christian community [in Cameroon], in particular, are vulnerable to forced marriages as a means of intimidation and control in regions experiencing conflict-related challenges.”

No. 4 Men and boys particularly risk experiencing faith-related physical violence in 39 of the 50 countries on the 2024 World Watch List. For example, In the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where violent insecurity creates opportunities for constant attacks on the church, Christian men and boys, in particular, are subject to recruitment into militia groups, targeted kidnappings and killings. 

No. 5 This year, faith-based forced marriage was identified as a risk for Christian women and girls in 84% of the countries on the World Watch List. Forced marriage is a form of exploitation and control and in many contexts, this risk is interwoven with sexual violence—with these strategies targeted at preventing Christian women and girls from pursuing their faith in Christ—and crippling the church.  
In some areas of Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kyrgyzstan and Mozambique, Christian women and girls can be abducted to be forcibly married to soldiers and other non-Christians, frequently to Muslim men. Across the Middle East and throughout parts of North Africa, women and girls who have converted from another faith background, such as Islam, risk being coerced into marrying a non-Christian man who carries some religious authority or who is committed to the faith, with the hope that he will influence them to recant. 

But there is hope...

While gender-specific religious persecution continues to be a challenge for both women and men who have made the often risky decision to follow Jesus, around the world God’s Church is serving persecuted Christians, meeting the physical, mental and spiritual needs of vulnerable believers. Open Doors’ Shalom Trauma Center in Nigeria, for example, offers long-term support to trauma victims, as well as training to church leaders wishing to offer trauma care. 

Our local partners are trusted by and often have easy access to impacted communities. They are uniquely equipped to understand the needs of religious minorities, including their psychological and spiritual needs. Increasingly, they are working towards gender-sensitive approaches, bringing hope to both men and women. Believers like Ijanada who after nearly four years of captivity with Islamic extremist group Boko Haram fighters came to the Shalom Center. “I found new life here,” she says. “They encouraged us and taught us about genuine forgiveness and how to let go ... I want to say thank you. May God continue to grant you wisdom to reach out to many others. I have been touched, and I have forgiven.”

Pray with your sisters on International Women’s Day (March 8)

  • Pray for Christian women like Mercy, Glory and Ijanada who are persecuted for their faith. Ask God to bring believers to help, support and walk alongside them.
  • Pray for Open Doors’ trauma counseling support … that it would bring healing to all women who attend and participate.
  • Thank God for how He is using women to reach others to build His Kingdom throughout the world.
  • Thank God for training programs and our local partners who equip and empower women in their faith.
  • Pray that all women throughout the world would feel loved and celebrated on International Women’s Day.
Father, we thank you for how you love your people. Right now, we pray for all our sisters who risk so much to follow you. We pray they feel your comfort and know your Truth. We pray they sense their stories being told … and even more, that they hear the prayers and love of their worldwide family. In your Son’s name, Amen.


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