Christian women in the persecuted world have to endure a cycle of shame, attendees at an international conference in Belgium have heard.
According to the conference, the church must learn to listen in a radical new way to Christian women who have been driven to silence by persecution and shame, and not leave them to suffer in silence.
Kate Ward, one of the organisers of the ‘Christian Women Under Pressure for the Faith Conference’, commented: ‘These women are being targeted for two reasons: because they are Christians and because they are women.
‘In Nigeria, Christian girls are being abducted and impregnated by Boko Haram. In Egypt, extremists are paying men to abduct women, force them into marriage and convert them to Islam. And in Pakistan, women are being kidnapped, raped and forced to change their religion. Women’s bodies are being used as weapons of war against their own communities. Along with sexual attack comes shame, and shame forces women into silence’.
The conference, held at Leuven, also heard that many millions of Christians experience high, very high or extreme persecution in more than 50 countries. However, women suffer disproportionately, Ms Ward, who works for Release International, told delegates.
She added, ‘Women make up more than half the church. They are doubly vulnerable to discrimination and violence. Yet, all too often, their voices are not heard. They are silent’.
The conference also heard from a North Korean refugee, whose Christian parents were killed by the state, as was a woman caught praying in a prison camp in North Korea. She told delegates, ‘A prisoner reported to the guard that she was praying. So the guard took her to the investigation room and tortured her. They hanged her upside down, burnt her with fire, cut her legs and beat her. And that’s how she died’.
The Leuven Consultation builds upon the Marcham Conference in Oxford in 2016, which gathered evidence that many Christian women faced double discrimination, because of their faith and gender.