06 March 2017

Six women from the persecuted church to be inspired by on International Women's Day

Christian persecution charity Open Doors will be encouraging people to remember the women of the persecuted church on International Women's Day, 8 March, with the stories of six inspiring women who have faced persecution because of their faith.

Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, said "Women and girls are on the frontline of persecution. In many parts of the world, they already face discrimination because of their gender, and being a Christian as well creates a double-vulnerability. I am incredibly inspired by these women who have stood firm in their faith and often choose to reach out and serve others, despite the persecution they have faced."

Photo of Rebecca - larger versions of photos available on request

Rebecca from Nigeria

Rebecca, an Open Doors partner in Nigeria, was forced to flee her home twice to escape Boko Haram - but she has started a small NGO to serve widows and orphans in her city. She said, "We were all refugees at that time and we all needed help, but I saw that many widows needed more help than I did." Her team of volunteers are supporting 2,000 widows every month. Read more of her story.

Meena* and Sunita* from India

Photo of Meena (left), Sunita (right)

Meena and Sunita are sisters from a Hindu background who decided to follow Jesus. They were beaten by their neighbours for their new faith; Sunita was beaten until she was unconscious, then dragged to the edge of her town. When she awoke, her wrist was broken; a bone was sticking out of it. She had no idea if her sister, Meena, who was also beaten, was alive or dead. She hid in a goat shed and prayed, "I can die or I can witness. Make me a witness for you."

The sisters survived and found each other – and refused to give up their faith. They now live in a different village, and Open Doors has enabled them to open a small stationery shop to support themselves. Meena said, "Thank you for praying for us and helping us."

Suaad from Iraq

Photo of Suaad

Suaad is a tailor in Iraq, who was forced to flee her home in Bashiqa to escape the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Now she lives in Erbil, where Open Doors set up a sewing factor through a local church; Suaad is the manager. "I know my brother can barely support his own family now, so whatever I get I share with him," she said. She teaches other displaced women sewing skills so they can support their families, and also regularly gives away clothes to those in need. "It's what I like most about the job: that I can share with those in a worse position than me," she said.

There is a short video about Suaad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaAo4B8BpY0&feature=youtu.be

Asia Bibi from Pakistan

Photo of Asia

Asia Bibi has been imprisoned in Pakistan since 2009. She was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for allegedly blaspheming the prophet Mohammed during an argument with local Muslim women, who refused to allow her to draw water from the well. She was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Article 295C of Pakistan's penal code. This verdict suspended by a higher court in July 2015. She was due to present her final appeal in October 2016, but this was postponed.

Hwa-Young* in China

Photo of trafficked North Korean women in China at a Bible study

Hwa-Young has a ministry reaching out to North Korean women who have been trafficked to China. Supporting North Koreans who have left North Korea can be dangerous work, but Hwa-Young said, "I don't have any fear of death. I'm a single woman, and if it's necessary I don't mind dying for this cause."

Most of the women Hwa-Young supports have been sold into marriage or servitude, and are abused and ill-treated by their new husbands and captors. Through years of experience and work, Hwa-Young has been connecting with these broken women, and helping them as they begin to heal from their experiences. Read more about her ministry.

- ENDS -


Note to editors:

For more information call the Open Doors press office on 01993 777377, 01993 777346 or 07484 000 441, or email Tania at taniac@opendoorsuk.org or Beth at bethf@opendoorsuk.org

Larger versions of photos available on request.

Information on Open Doors - www.opendoorsuk.org

Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million.

Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List - a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life- plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors' research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2016.

On the 2017 World Watch List, Nigeria is number 12, India is number 15, Iraq is number 7, Pakistan is number 4, and North Korea is number 1.