Many Christian believers living in Arabic countries face ridicule and violence for accepting Jesus as their savior. This is doubly the case for a specific subset of believers—women. Adding religious persecution on top of cultural misogyny puts them in an especially perilous situation.
Following Jesus is not a decision that Arab women can make lightly. It’s a choice between safety and worshiping God. A choice that has major ramifications for their own lives and the lives around them.
1 — The Plight of Female Believers
Women around the world can relate to some form of struggle because of their gender. In Western countries, women fight for equal pay and paid maternity leave. However, women in the Middle East face significantly harsher forms of persecution. These statistics show just how stark their oppression is:
- 37% of Arab women have reported experiencing violence. The actual number is assumed to be much higher.
- Over half of the estimated 245 million Christians facing extreme persecution in the world are women. That’s more people than live in all but the top-11 most populated countries in the world.
- ISIS has been documented sanctioning rape of women and girls as young as nine years old. Rape is one of the most common forms of persecution against women in the Arab world.
The data is overwhelming. It’s difficult to fully understand the impact of these statistics without knowing the stories behind them. To put names to numbers, here are stories of several Christian women in the Arab world who have suffered because of their faith.
Her siblings beat her, and Vida’s parents said they would murder her if anyone else from the village found out.
2 — Personal Stories of the Doubly Persecuted
Middle Eastern culture is dominated by men. Men hold power in the household and expect women’s obedience. Females often don’t have a voice or approval to make decisions. Acting against their family’s or husband’s wishes often leads to backlash.
Fadilah was forced to marry at the age of 14, only to get divorced three months later. By 18, she married again—this time to a man who beat her and forced her to sleep in a sheep pen. That marriage also led to a divorce.
Divorce is not easy in any setting, but it’s even more devastating for Middle Eastern women. Without many opportunities for education or work, women are largely dependent on their husbands. In the case of divorce, men take their ability to earn an income, the family home, and sometimes even the children with them. Thankfully, Fadilah third marriage at the age of 24 has endured.
Farida lost everything when she decided to follow Jesus. When her conversion was revealed, her husband divorced her, her extended family abandoned her, and she lost her job. Farida’s children followed her example in accepting Christ, but they’re now unable to go to school because of the backlash from this decision.
Sahar’s husband’s family threatened to behead her when she became a Christian. She prayed to God for deliverance. Eventually, Sahar and her family were forced to flee their home in Syria to nearby Lebanon.
Escape to another town or neighboring country is often the only option for Christian women. It also means relying on a Savior who promises freedom from abuse and hatred.
One day, Vida’s children innocently mentioned that they attended church, which resulted in outrage from Vida’s family. Her siblings beat her, and Vida’s parents said they would murder her if anyone else from the village found out.
They gave her an ultimatum—return to Islam or leave the family. Ultimately, Vida chose to leave. She is now struggling to provide for her children financially because of the difficulty in finding a job. But she is at least flourishing spiritually as a member of a local church.
3 — In Need of a Savior
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” —John 4:10
Persecution of women in the Middle East dates back to biblical times. Jesus saw oppression firsthand when He walked the earth. Scripture tells numerous stories of how those with less power were abused. One of the most unique things about Christ was His compassion for the downtrodden.
Today, Jesus’ message of hope and kindness appeals to many Middle Eastern women. Because God’s word can’t be shared freely in the Middle East, these women first encounter Christ in unique ways. No barrier can prevent God from reaching his children.
Fadilah came to know Christ when a friend of her mother-in-law spoke about the Bible. Fadilah mocked the woman’s beliefs but eventually came to believe them herself. Rather than perpetuating her culture’s attack on Christianity, Fadilah began listening to God’s word and her life was transformed.
Sahar became a Christian after she had a dream that Jesus spoke to her. She gave her life to Christ that very night. Because God delivered her family from persecution in Syria, Sahar’s husband has also began following Christ as well.
4 — What Happens Next
Fadilah’s faith largely remains a secret within her community.
“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” —Matthew 10:21-22
Many female Muslims who convert to Christianity try to keep their faith secret. Instead of celebrating their redemption, they’re forced to hide it.
Fadilah’s faith largely remains a secret within her community. Every day, she fears that the wrong person will find out and turn her community against her. Ziva’s elder son blames his mother’s faith on hardships that the family endures. He has even threatened to turn her over to local religious officials for retribution.
Vida’s story provides an illustration of why these women fear discovery. The violence she faced because of an innocent comment made by her children shows the real risks these women run by worshiping God.
5 — Helping the Helpless
Help The Persecuted Rescues, Restores, and Rebuilds women like Ziva, Farida, Sahar, and Vida. By supporting them, we hope to demonstrate that they’ve made the right decision in following Christ. We will do everything we can to counteract violent opposition to their faith.
One of the most common ways Help The Persecuted supports these women is by providing housing, living expenses, and medical care. There are so many reasons why this work is vital.
- When women like Fadilah are kicked out of their homes, they have nowhere else to turn.
- Women like Sahar need guidance acclimating when they flee to a new country.
- Women like Vida need medical attention for the physical violence they’d endured.
Even more crucial than meeting their physical needs is the spiritual nurturing that these women deserve. They’re seeking deeper faith in countries which don’t have many resources for Christians. Help The Persecuted provides pastoral counseling and discipleship for women like Farida to help her grow in her new faith.
Spiritual Retreats are another important initiative Help The Persecuted has launched. During retreats, persecuted Christian women receive Christ-focused teaching to deepen their faith and therapy to heal their emotional wounds. Retreats also provide opportunities for women to connect with others who have endured hardships.
By partnering with Help The Persecuted, you can make a difference in a persecuted Christian woman’s life. You can provide encouragement and strength to someone who is routinely told that they’re weak and hopeless.