By Open Doors 8 March 2024 4 MIN

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is an important moment to reflect on the double persecution that Christian women- face worldwide – for their faith and their gender. According to Open Doors’ Gender Report 2024, The top five pressure points faced by Christian women are forced marriage, sexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence, and abduction. For female Christian converts, forced marriage, rejection, domestic violence and ostracism from their community are far too common.

But in the midst of unbearable suffering, these persecuted women are finding hope in Christ and the support of people like you. Here are some of their stories.

Sara: Secret ministry within a forced Islamic marriage

Sara, a Christian woman in Iraq, recalls the trauma of being locked away in her own home, by her own father, simply for deciding to follow Jesus. She was forced into an Islamic marriage with her stepmother’s nephew in the hopes that she would return to Islam. Jesus, she shares, was her source of hope and strength.

According to the Gender Report 2024, women and girls commonly experience persecution within the private sphere, often behind closed doors or perpetrated by those already known to them within their existing communities and relationships.

Sara is devoted to Jesus amid the pressure and pain she has faced, “Even though my situation seemed helpless and impossible, I still had hope and faith in Christ.”

Still, she doesn’t make her newfound faith a secret, giving others the Word of God like she received more than 10 years ago as a curious teen.

“My ministry is to taxi drivers,” she says. “I talk with them about God and distribute Kurdish Bibles to them.” Sara has seen God’s love and power firsthand and the wisdom of His plans. “I have never regretted the decision I made,” she says. “He brought me down to my lowest, only to lift me up again.”

Mariam: A Family Healed Amid Tragedy

Mariam, a mother of four girls, had her world torn apart in 2017 when her husband was killed by Islamic extremists, simply for being a Christian. In the time to follow, Mariam came to realise, she had not only lost her husband, but had also lost all security and financial stability.

Open Doors’ Gender Report 2024 revealed that kinship structures, gender inequalities, and levels of violence in the wider society are all factors that influence how men and women experience gender-specific abuse in different countries. In places like these, when women lose their husbands or male support, they also lose their income, their honour, and their standing in society.

Mariam’s hope for the future quickly dwindled.

Through the support of people like you, Mariam was shown that, as a woman of God, much like the women in the Bible, God places immense value on her. Practical support has helped her rebuild her life and provide for her family. Through livelihood training and a small business loan, she began her own business raising chickens to generate regular income and support her children. Additionally, regular pastoral visits and trauma care programs have given Mariam a new hope and the endurance to rebuild.

“I learned to forgive those who have hurt me, and I want to help others like my dad did; I am sure my Heavenly Father will never forsake us,” shared 12-year-old Sylvia, Mariam’s oldest daughter.

Ani: An explosion, an injured baby, and the restoration of hope

Ani still can’t talk about the day without crying. She remembers exactly where she was—holding her baby daughter on her lap, sitting in her living room, when the bomb hit. As she flew through the air, with her baby in her arms, Ani knew: everything she and her husband, Sarkis, had planned and worked toward was gone.

In the case of the Middle East, a number of factors combine to make violence, such as that Ani experienced, flare up; according to the Gender Report 2024, insecurity inflames existing injustices, such as poverty, racial injustice, and gendered inequalities.

Ani has a daily reminder of the bombing beyond the traumatic memory. Her daughter, Maria, still carries a chunk of the mortar shell, embedded in her head.

Amidst the devastation she and her family endured, your support has restored her hope. People like you offered Ani and her daughters emergency relief and helped to rebuild her home. She now participates in a discipleship group for women run by Open Doors’ local partners, while her children also go to the activities there.

“Your support was vital,” Ani says. “You helped me through a lot and made my life easier.”

This International Women’s Day, show persecuted women that they are seen, heard, and loved.