Esther from Nigeria, who escaped from Boko Haram, flew to Washington D.C. to meet President Trump and raise awareness of the persecution of Christian women in Nigeria.
The meeting in the Oval Office was part of the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Liberty in Washington D.C.
Open Doors has been supporting Esther and her daughter, Becky, since she escaped Boko Haram, with food aid, trauma counselling and letters of encouragement, including one from the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, Henrietta Blyth said, “It is vital that world leaders like President Trump champion freedom of religion and belief. This week President Trump heard stories of the persecution of Christians from North Korea, Nigeria and Myanmar as well the plight of the Rohingya, Yezidi and many more. Hearing these stories is not enough, policy and action must follow.
“Boris Johnson has been elected leader of the Conservative Party and will soon become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. We strongly urge him to keep speaking out for persecuted minorities to ensure real improvement in their religious freedom.
“Please also pray for Esther, her daughter Becky and for the thousands of other Christians like her persecuted for their faith. And pray that our world leaders will work together to stamp out the persecution of religious minorities.”
According to research by Open Doors, Christian women, like Esther, are doubly vulnerable to persecution, being targeted for both their faith and gender. Their suffering is often unseen and ignored by the world around them. Through the campaign See. Change. Open Doors is ensuring women are treated with care and dignity, and seen when isolated.
In places of conflict, such as Nigeria, sexual violence is weaponised. If the act itself doesn’t kill the women, the trauma, stigma and deteriorating physical and mental health wreak havoc on their lives for generations. Open Doors wants to ensure doubly vulnerable women are seen and recognised in UK government policy on sexual violence in conflict.
Open Doors is asking supporters to urge the government to act on this vital issue by signing their name on a piece of cloth which will be sewn into a banner. This banner, a handmade petition, will be presented to the UK government in November 2019 during the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Preventing Violence in Sexual Conflict (PSVI) Conference.
Nigeria is number 12 on the Open Doors World Watch List, the annual ranking of the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The majority of Christians live in the south of the country, and their religious freedom is respected. In the north of Nigeria and the ‘Middle Belt’, where Christians are in the minority, they face horrific levels of persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists. The militant group Boko Haram abducts and kills those who refuse to conform to their extremist brand of Islam. Attacks by armed groups of Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of Christians. Twelve of the northern states are under Sharia (Islamic law), and Christians in these states face particular discrimination.