For some people, saying “I see you” to persecuted Christian women is like looking in a mirror.
This year, we’ve been asking our supporters in the UK and Ireland to sign the handmade petition to stand by women who are doubly vulnerable – persecuted for both their faith and their gender. And around the world, women who have themselves been persecuted are also adding their names. They know first-hand what the experience of persecution is like, and want to lend their voices to the campaign.
The Ananna project
That includes women in Bangladesh who are taking the Ananna discipleship course. Since 2012, Open Doors has worked with local churches in Bangladesh to conduct this programme for women who have experienced opposition to their faith - mostly converts from Islam and tribal believers. Thanks to your support and prayers, women are offered the opportunity to grow in faith and resilience and heal from their experiences.
The Ananna course lasts three years, during which participants meet together for three days every two to three months. The impact of the course is wide-reaching, as the women are encouraged to duplicate the training in their respective churches. That way, many can develop and grow in discipleship.
Two of the Bangladeshi women benefiting from the Ananna project are Rojina and Monira. They have both signed the handmade petition, and they both have stories to tell about their own difficult experiences as Christian women.
When Rojina became a Christian, her neighbours tried to stop her teaching. They told her that her children couldn’t go to school, and that nobody would ever marry her daughter. In her Bangladeshi community, converting from Islam to Christianity is considered shameful.
She has been raising her children alone for over a decade, after her husband died in an accident. She decided to become a Christian when she learned about Jesus and found hope in Him. Rojina was particularly drawn to the verse “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“The villagers say I am a bad woman,” she says. “They threaten me and try to stop me going to church.” Rojina has been ostracised by her community, but has greatly valued the Ananna project. Open Doors workers were also able to give her an opportunity to teach adult literacy. “Now my dream is to live out a life of Christlikeness and follow Him with steadfastness,” she says.
Monira was widowed young too. Before their marriage, her Muslim husband had said he would convert to Christianity – afterwards he wanted her to convert to Islam. Tragically, he killed himself when she chose to be baptised.
Defenceless, Monira and her children were attacked by the villagers. Her husband’s family started a court case against her, and she and her parents went into hiding. “We had no food. Nobody helped us. We just prayed and prayed. We completely depended on Jesus,” she says.
Even when this threat was over, persecution continued. Her children were attacked at school. Villagers accused her of prostitution. Thankfully, she persevered. “Now, people respect us,” she says proudly. “God gave me more than I had lost.”
Both women have contributed their own squares and signatures to the handmade petition. It’s not too late for you to respond to their courageous faith and sign the petition yourself, or encourage friends and family to sign – though there’s not long left to order a free petition pack. Remember to send in your completed petitions by 14 October.