Christian Today | January 22, 2020
Last year, the Bishop of Truro published a monumental review into the persecution of Christians. The findings were stark: anti-Christian persecution is spreading and increasing in severity to the point where in some regions it is coming close to meeting the UN definition of genocide.
While all persecution is an ordeal for those bearing it, Open Doors is trying to shine a light onto the “double vulnerability” of Christian women who are at risk of violence or harassment not only because of their faith, but because of their gender.
“Men are more likely to experience a ‘visible’ form of persecution – they are more likely to be killed, imprisoned or conscripted for their faith,” says Izzy Stark, from the Open Doors UK Advocacy team.
“Women, on the other hand, are more likely to experience persecution that is ‘hidden’ – they’re more likely to be kidnapped, experience sexual violence or be forced into a marriage.
“Therefore, we don’t often hear their story or know how insidious it is.”
Nigeria is one such country where this kind of difference in the experience of persecution can be seen.
There, armed Fulani herdsmen and members of the Boko Haram terrorist group have been specifically targeting Christian villages.
Izzy was in the country recently to meet women affected by the attacks. ‘Christie’, whose name has been changed for security reasons, was targeted even before the attack on the whole village, because she was the pastor’s wife.
Horrifically, she was kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen with her one month old son and raped. She was held for three months until her husband was able to pay the ransom. But when she came back with the warning that her kidnappers were planning an attack on the whole village, nobody believed her. A week later, the Fulani came and burned the whole village down.
“In many countries where persecution occurs, women are often not listened to; they’re in a culture already where they are so vulnerable. And if you connect that with their faith, they have a double vulnerability.
“They suffer both for their gender and then for their faith in a very specific but much more hidden way.”