COVID-19 Fuels ‘Hidden Pandemic’ of Abuse Towards Christian Women

SOUTH ASIA — Covid-19 is fuelling a growing, hidden, “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence, abduction and trafficking, directed towards Christian women and girls around the world.

This is one of the findings of a new report commissioned by Christian persecution charity Open Doors, released on International Women’s Day (Mon Mar 8).

Global Gender Persecution Specialist for Open Doors International Helene Fisher, who authored the report, shares the story of 19-year-old Lucina, highlighting how Christian women are being exploited for their faith.

Helene Fisher, Gender Persecution Specialist, Open Doors International:

Hello, I’m Helene Fisher and I’m the global gender persecution specialist for
Open Doors International.

2020 was a terribly difficult year for all of us. We were able to see how the pandemic made the vulnerable even more vulnerable around the world. Open Doors World Watch Research has discovered an alarming trend in gender-specific religious persecution.

This year’s number one pressure point for women that increased in intensity during Covid is forced marriage. The effects of forced marriage are devastating – especially in cultures where sexual purity is tied to family honour.

Forced marriage targets real people with real stories.

Like the story of Lucina.

Lucina is a 19-year-old young woman from South Asia and she dreamed of
becoming a doctor one day. But that all changed in 2020, when extremists threatened Lucina’s father, Boutros, because of his Christian faith.

At first, the extremists threatened Boutros directly. When direct attacks on him didn’t stop Boutros, the extremists targeted his daughter. So it was that at 9am one morning, Lucina was walking home after a tutoring session. A girl named Ghadaara pulled up in a taxi beside Lucina. Ghadaara started a conversation about their studies and offered Lucina a ride home. When Lucina got into the taxi, she saw a few unknown men. But Ghadaara quickly offered Lucina some tea and cakes – a sign that she was an honoured guest. But unfortunately, after Lucina ate the tea and cakes, she fell into a deep sleep. When Lucina woke up, hours later, she was locked in a bedroom.

Sexual violence, trafficking and forced marriage are regularly weaponised against Christian women and girls to inflict persecution on minority Christian communities.

Lucina cried out for help. But Ghadaara shouted back: “You’re never going home! You’re married to my brother now.”

While the rest of us around the world were in Covid lockdowns, Lucina was also locked down, but as a prisoner in someone else’s home, repeatedly raped in a false marriage.

Months went by.

Lucina’s pleas for freedom fell on deaf ears. Then, lockdown was lifted in the region and Ghadaara and her brother finally went out for a short while. This gave Lucina the opportunity she had been waiting for.

She carefully snuck out of her room and found a cell phone. Lucina called her sister for help and gave her the address. Her father Boutros rushed to the police station and the police were able to
find Lucina.

She was in a terrible condition. Malnourished, mistreated, abused. Soon after, she discovered that she was pregnant – and was devastated.

Lucina still dreams of being a doctor, but her future is uncertain.

Today, Lucina asks for your prayers – for her protection and future.

About Open Doors UK

Open Doors is a non-denominational mission that supports persecuted Christians in over 70 countries where Christianity is socially or legally discouraged or oppressed. In their work, they provide vital support, training, and resources to those facing persecution or discrimination.

Resources that they provide include distributing Bibles and literature, running leadership training, assisting with socio-economic development and intercessory prayer. They also help victims of violence and disaster, including widows and orphans, with practical support such as relief aid, livelihood support, and community development projects.

Their vision is of a world in which every Christian who is persecuted is remembered and supported by other Christians. They pray for a world where there is no persecution.

Read more news on Christian Persecution, Violence Against Women and the COVID 19 crisis.

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