06 March 2020

24 women's stories for International Women's Day

This International Women's Day, we're looking at 24 stories of persecuted Christians from across the world - from tragedy to triumph.

This International Women's Day, we're looking at 24 stories of persecuted Christians from across the world. Each story is a small snapshot of a woman's life. Some have triumphant endings - in others, we're still praying. 

As you read through, please pray that all of these women would be seen, valued and empowered to reach their God-given potential. Open Doors' See. Change. campaign aims to restore the hope, dignity and identity of all women who are doubly at risk of persecution - for their faith and for their gender.

If you follow Open Doors on Twitter or Facebook, you'll see one of these stories shared each hour throughout International Women's Day (Sunday 8 March) - an opportunity to pray for your courageous sisters.

Bristy, Rojina, Susanna

(l-r) Bristy, Rojina, Susanna

1. 12-year-old Bristy from Bangladesh was bullied for being a Christian, and because her parents converted from Islam. They had to flee their village, and didn't have shelter, food or money. But your support means she can now dream about her future - Bristy lives in a care centre supported by Open Doors. "I have a wonderful life now. Every day I study, work, play, go to school, do worship and prayer, eat together with many friends. I am very thankful to those supporters who are praying for us." 

2. Rojina from Bangladesh became a Christian after she was widowed, but her community rejected her. Her neighbours tried to stop her teaching, which had been her job, and stopped her children going to school. In her Bangladeshi community, converting from Islam to Christianity is considered shameful. Thanks to your support, she is able to say: "My dream is to live out a life of Christlikeness."

3. Susanna Koh from Malaysia is fighting for justice for her kidnapped husband, Pastor Raymond Koh, who was taken in February 2017 - the state police are believed to be responsible. Open Doors is standing with her while she waits - she is currently meeting human rights activists in the US, where she was honoured with an International Women of Courage Award.

Naomi, Vartouhi, Leah

(l-r) Naomi, Vartouhi, Leah

4. Naomi from Burkina Faso had to flee her hometown with her children when Islamic extremists attacked. Thanks to your support, she has received aid: "Today, God’s promises have been fulfilled." 

5. Persecution and war closed Vartouhi’s bakery in Syria, and she lost her livelihood. As Christians started to return and rebuild their communities, the prayers and gifts of Open Doors supporters meant that Vartouhi could re-open her food business!

6. Leah Sharibu from northern Nigeria is still being held by Boko Haram after two years – targeted for her gender and her faith. All the other schoolgirls kidnapped alongside her were released, but Leah was kept because she refused to renounce her faith in Jesus. Please keep praying that she will be released soon.

Christy, Tara, Martina

(l-r) Christy, Tara, Martina

7. "God sees me." – Christy is a pastor's wife from northern Nigeria. She was kidnapped and raped by militant Fulani herdsmen. When she was released, God guided her to a safe village - and the very church that had been negotiating her return. She has found healing at an Open Doors trauma care centre in Nigeria.

8. 15-year-old Tara* from India was made a stranger in her own home because she chose to follow Jesus – but "nothing can compare to the peace I have received in Him," she says. Her parents wouldn't share resources, and refused even to use the same water source as her, but Open Doors partners found her a safe place in a school and hostel. Please pray for Tara as she copes with ill health currently.

9. Your letters brought widow Martina from Nigeria comfort after her husband was murdered by militant Fulani herdsmen: "God sent you to bring encouragement to me when I needed it most!" Her husband, Joseph, had been the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria. As well as letters from Open Doors supporters, Martina was strengthened by financial and spiritual support from Open Doors partners.

Aizah, Nadia, Rachel

(l-r) Aizah, Nadia, Rachel

10. Aizah* from North Africa left home in fear for her life when she became a Christian - she had been held captive by her father and attacked by her brother. Now she supports women who risk persecution from their families for choosing Jesus. 

11. "The Lord stood with me, and comforted me," says Nadia, who survived an attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt. The attack killed her son and son-in-law, but the faith in God shared by Nadia and her daughter helped them find comfort and strength after this tragedy.

12. Church leader Rachel* was imprisoned for her faith and held in terrible conditions. When she was released on bail, Rachel fled Iran - she and her family still need prayer. Please ask that they be safe from retaliation and confident in God's protection.

Rikiya, Debbie, Berhane

(l-r) Rikiya, Debbie, Berhane

13. When Boko Haram attacked her village in northern Nigeria, Rikiya had to flee. She and her children lost everything - she had already lost her husband, and thus her family had no breadwinner. With the support of microloans from Open Doors partners, she is getting on the path to self-sufficiency.

14. Six-year-old Debbie was blinded in the Easter church bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019 – attacks that also killed her parents. Debbie spent over a month in intensive care, but is now at home and is relearning to walk - and to dance! Her faith in God is strong and thriving: "My favourite Bible story is that, though Adam and Eve sinned, Jesus still came to save everyone. Jesus came to save us!"

15. Berhane* from Ethiopia converted to Christianity from a local, traditional religion. She was exiled from her family for six years, but today she is a fearless evangelist: "I go places where no one else dares to go. God is my shepherd. He is the one walking with me."

Sang-Hwa, Mary, Kwate

(l-r) Kim Sang-Hwa, Mary, Kwate

16. When Kim Sang-Hwa* discovered her parents’ secret Bible, she knew they could all be sent to prison – or killed. That’s the danger that believers face in North Korea - number one on the World Watch List, and the country where believers face the most extreme persecution.

17. Mary, formerly known as Fatemeh, was arrested in February in Iran. She has campaigned against Iran’s treatment of Christians, and has previously been in prison for her faith. She was recently released on bail: please pray that she will be strengthened and encouraged, and that the courts in Iran would treat her fairly and with justice.

18. Kwate is an elderly woman in northern Nigeria. Her husband was murdered by Boko Haram when they attacked her village. With your help, she gets the financial help she needs. "God spared me and helps me in my small farm," says Kwate. "I will continue to praise Him."

Asia, Eun Hye, Jina

(l-r) Asia, Eun Hye, Jina

19. Asia Bibi was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws. After almost a decade in prison, she was finally released – and now lives safely in Canada, praise God. Please keep praying for vulnerable believers in Pakistan.

20. North Korea is the country where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Incredibly, Eun Hye* managed to escape the country – twice. 

21. "My faith in God is very big. I say to Him: 'O Lord as you like, may Your will be done; I just ask You to return my husband safe and sound.'" In 2013, Jina’s husband was kidnapped for his Christian faith, and now she raises her son, Abraham, without his father. She’s endured the conflict and uncertainty in Syria ever since - but Open Doors partners are helping her with fuel, money and prayer.

Esther, Mariayamu, Hannah

(l-r) Esther, Mariayamu, Hannah (image illustrative)

22. Esther in Nigeria was abducted by Boko Haram when she was 17. She was forcibly married and, when she eventually returned to her community, she was pregnant with her daughter Rebecca. But instead of receiving a welcome after her ordeal, Esther was shunned by her friends and family. "They called my baby 'Boko'," she says. Open Doors trauma care helped her heal – and letters from Open Doors supporters brought her great encouragement.

23. Mariayamu was widowed by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Her village has been attacked three times by Boko Haram in recent years, and she lost not only her husband but her breadwinner. She’s getting back on her feet with microloans, thanks to your support.

24. "There has been an escalation in attacks against believers, aimed to silence, intimidate and say, 'You are not welcome'," says Hannah*. She's an Open Doors partner in South West Asia, and sees first-hand how hard life is for Christian women, and particularly for South West Asian women from an ethnic minority who are also believers.

*Names changed for security reasons


please pray

India needs prayer now more than ever. Abishek says, “People should feel that this country is a blessed country. As it is written in the Bible, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord’ (Psalm 33:12).” You can pray regularly with Christians in India using our bi-monthly prayer diary.

Write to Indian Believers

Our brothers and sisters in India are keen to hear from you - and to know they are not forgotten. Can you send a message of encouragement to your family in India, who are following Jesus no matter the cost?

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