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What is life like for Christian women in India?

Beena* was the victim of attempted rape. Sharda* wasn’t allowed to interact outside the house. Tara* is ostracised in her own home. Like Sharda, Beena and Tara, many Christian women around the world face frequent persecution for both their faith and their gender. Their stories show the vulnerabilities that women disproportionately experience. With your support, Open Doors partners are able to encourage and help them with projects that will restore their dignity and identity, and equip them to play a positive role as women in their local communities.

Domestic violence and extremist attacks didn’t stop Sharda helping her community

Sharda has suffered both because of her gender and because of her faith – though she remains filled with faith and with love for her community.

Sharda was the victim of isolation and domestic violence when she got married and moved to her new husband’s house in north India. She hadn’t realised the restrictive life she was going to: “I was not allowed to interact with anybody outside the house,” says Sharda. “Life was difficult and women in the community were looked down upon. I was regularly subjected to domestic violence by the members of the household.”

These severe conditions led Sharda to faith, when she fled to friends in a nearby town and heard about Jesus for the first time. Even when her father-in-law found her and took her back to her husband’s home, she continued to profess her Christian faith in the face of opposition. Eventually, though they didn’t come to faith, her husband’s family saw the difference Jesus had made in Sharda’s life and stopped trying to convert her.

“I had a burden for the women and children in the community and started working for social development,” says Sharda. She started a school and a fellowship. Things were going well for several years – but one day persecution impacted her worse than ever before.

“My son was going to his tuition. He’d just passed an exam that meant he could go to one of the best colleges. We were all very happy. But on his way, he was attacked and beaten by a group of men. One of them shot him in the stomach.” The men had been paid to attack him by Hindu extremists. They have not been prosecuted.

Thankfully, Sharda’s son survived, though he could no longer attend the prestigious college. Following the incident, Sharda was contacted by Open Doors local partners who visited and prayed with her. Thanks to your giving and prayers, Open Doors partners were able to help Sharda’s community initiative.

“Since I knew tailoring, they provided me with four sewing machines,” says Sharda. “I was able to start a tailoring business, employing some local women. These women are downtrodden and exploited in their community, but now they have a livelihood.”

Sharda and other women at her tailoring workshop

Sharda knows that she and her son are still vulnerable to attack, and that she is doubly vulnerable in her community because she is a woman, but she perseveres: “My life changed after I came to Christ and realised how God could make me a channel of blessing, even in depressing circumstances. I have committed my life to helping people. I want to continue spreading hope despite all the threats and danger in our daily lives.”

Please pray

  • Thank God that Sharda’s son survived and that she has been able to set up her business
  • For protection from future attacks, and that Sharda will be able to tell others of the love of Jesus
  • That Open Doors local partners would be able to reach more women like Sharda with livelihood support.

Tara is ostracised in her own home

Tara is a 14-year-old girl from north India. She is the only Christian in her family – and, while she is permitted to live at home, her faith means that the rest of her family ostracise her.

“I live in the same house as my family. There are 15 rooms in the house. But because I choose to follow Jesus, I am given a small separate room in the house; nobody comes into my room and nobody even touches me or looks at me.”

Her family won’t eat the food she cooks or drink water she has touched. It’s as though they believe that her faith in Jesus has contaminated her. And they won’t contribute to her school fees or her living costs, so Tara needs to do manual labour to earn enough to pay for education and food.

Despite all these challenges, Tara has resolved never to leave her faith in Jesus. "I know that Jesus is the true God. I can never substitute Him for anything. Nothing can compare to the peace I have received in Him."

Please pray

  • For strength and resilience for Tara as she faces persecution
  • That Tara’s family would have their hearts and minds changed, and turn to Christ.

Attackers tried to rape Beena and drown her husband

When Beena and her family became Christians, after hearing about Jesus from a pastor in a nearby village, they soon started to receive threats from their Hindu neighbours. Beena even felt that she had to send two of her children to live with relatives elsewhere, because the threats were so severe.

Things came to a head when Beena and her husband were called to a community meeting and chastised for leaving their traditional Hindu faith.

“They hurled abuse at us – and then they started showering us with kicks and blows. They used thick bamboo sticks. Some of the men started pulling off my clothes. I was terrified. I knew that they intended to rape me.”

Sexual violence is often used as a weapon of persecution against Christian women, and even an attempted assault can cause lasting trauma. Beena’s husband intervened and stopped the attack – but they turned their anger to him instead. Beena fled with her son, the only one of her children who wasn’t living with her relatives.

Sign the handmade petition to say "I see you" to women vulnerable to persecution for their gender and their faith.

“As we ran, I saw that they were tying my husband’s hands behind his back and preparing to throw him into a deep pond that was nearby. They were shouting that he would definitely die. I heard someone say, ‘He will drown with his faith today.’”

Beena and her son escaped, not knowing whether or not her husband were dead.

“My son was holding my hand tightly. He kept walking along crying silently, murmuring, ‘My father, my father.’ He was so afraid.”

Miraculously, though, he had survived! After asking neighbours for help, Beena was taken to a pastor’s house, and her husband was waiting for her. Everybody was overjoyed that she and her husband had been brought to safety.

Beena

After their remarkable reunion that night, Beena, her husband and her son went to stay with a believer from the church. Just a few days later, Open Doors partners were able to meet with Beena to pray for her and encourage her, and also provide practical help for her family. Beena attended an Open Doors training session where she learned how best to resiliently prepare for persecution, and found it helpful in healing from her traumatic experience: “I was crying the whole time during the prayer. We had walked through the valley of the shadow of death and God had preserved us.”

Thanks to your support, Open Doors partners are able to help Christians in India with urgent aid and encouragement, as well as long-term support to help rebuild their lives and be better prepared for any future persecution.

Can you stand by your sisters in prayer and in your financial giving, and show that you see them?

 

*Names changed for security reasons