This report, which is itself a summary of five reports, focusing upon Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Colombia and the Central African Republic, demonstrates that women often bear the brunt of the persecution of Christians, “from subtle discrimination surrounding access to education, through to extreme violence.” As we have previously noted, imprisoned Christian women in North Korea are frequently the victims of sexual violence; unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to North Korea: “women’s lives are all too often characterised by invisible and lifelong hardship. However, women from minorities (in this case Christians, but not excluding others too) have their difficulties made worse by the compounding effect of the exploitation of their socio-economic and legal inequalities.” As Orthodox Christians conscious of the reality that “there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), we must stand for the human dignity and rights of women everywhere.
“Persecution of minority Christian women ‘hidden, complex, and interwoven with “everyday” discrimination,’” World Watch Monitor, November 26, 2018:
Five new reports – about Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Colombia and the Central African Republic – unmask the multiple domestic, societal and state dynamics used in the persecution of Christian women and girls in each country.
When viewed individually, the tactics used against women – from subtle discrimination surrounding access to education, through to extreme violence – appear as unrelated “actors”, taking turns to harass a woman’s expressions of faith.
But now each of these reports, by the World Watch Research Unit of Christian charity Open Doors International, catalogues the inter-related web of dynamics and tactics, and concludes by connecting up the “domino” impact of simultaneous persecuting events. The resulting picture is akin to the anguish caused by a thousand paper cuts, plus, all too often, much deeper wounds.
As the same unit’s gender-specific analysis of global persecution trends explained earlier this year: while men often face much more obvious and public forms of pressure and persecution for their faith, women’s suffering is often in daily life.
The timing of these reports coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women yesterday (25 November).
Invisible and lifelong hardship
Each report looks closely at the implications for freedom of religion for Christians in its focus country. In all these contexts, women’s lives are all too often characterised by invisible and lifelong hardship. However, women from minorities (in this case Christians, but not excluding others too) have their difficulties made worse by the compounding effect of the exploitation of their socio-economic and legal inequalities.
A man’s night in jail is always easier to “count” than an assaulted woman whose community is trying hide and protect her from what is misperceived as her shame. Unlike an unjust detention, her experience of persecution hardly shows on the surface; like a bloodless paper cut repeatedly inflicted, her persecution hides in plain sight.
In order to avoid the shame of a daughter choosing to identify with a minority faith, a family patriarch might arrange for her to be forcibly married to a man of the dominant religion. “A happy marriage, a good man,” he says. Without the education or financial means to support herself, she is often trapped in an increasingly abusive marriage without legal recourse. “Everything is provided for her, why should she leave?” When children are added, those antagonistic to her faith within her new familial structure gain new leverage in her dilemma: “For the good of her children, why can’t she do what’s best for them?” These diverse dynamics, when observed as recurring patterns of attack on a minority religious community, are highly effective at undermining the free expression of religion….