COVID-19 Fueling ‘Hidden Pandemic’ Of Abuse Towards Christian Women: Report

Christians in different places face different kinds of persecution.

A report revealed that coronavirus pandemic has intensified abuse on Christian women behind closed doors.

Open Doors International has published a report, 2021 Gender-Specific Religious Persecution (GSRP), stating that COVID-19 has increased the 'hidden pandemic' of "gender-based violence, abduction and trafficking towards Christian women and girls across Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Latin America."

The report showed that the abuse on Christian women has risen by 31% since last year. Given the lengthy lockdowns in 2020, it has indicated that domestic violence has become a way to control women.

The report has presented five findings.

First, the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has worsened "existing vulnerabilities." Abuse against women such as physical attacks, deadly violence and targeted seduction has increased. In homes, lockdowns have resulted to increased physical attacks of Christian converts by family members who are against their faith. In sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, rebel groups exploited "COVID-related vulnerabilities" and increased their criminal activities to persecute Christians.

Second, cases of GSRP appears to be higher in countries experiencing conflict. The risk of Christian men being put to death, abducted, and forced to join the military of rebel groups, has risen. On the other hand, women have become more vulnerable to trafficking, being seduced or forced to flee the country, as well as being abducted.

Third, reports of women experiencing "psychological violence" and "trafficking" have risen. The increase in psychological violence affects women. They usually struggle in overcoming traumas caused by physical and sexual assaults they have experienced. Cases of human trafficking on women have also risen.

Fourth, "shame dynamics" are being used to inflict Christian men and women with GSRP. Christian men are reportedly shamed when they are in detention, physically beaten or discriminated in their workplace. Christian women are shamed and controlled through sexual violence and forced marriage, considering society's high regard for sexual purity.

Finally, individual attacks target family and Christian community. Attacks are targeted on areas that are vulnerable to individuals, in accordance to a person's role or value in the society. Christian men are targeted due to their role as financial providers, family and church leaders, seeking to endanger the Christian family and community. Women are targeted using their bodies as tools to harm their Christian community and limit the growth of the church.

Violence on women usually occurs behind closed doors. Forced marriage and domestic violence have become "culturally accepted" in many countries that perpetrators are no longer afraid of consequences.

An example of this is the daughter of a South East Asian evangelist who was abducted, assaulted and thrown into a forced marriage by the enemies of his father, due to the evangelist's unrelenting sharing of the gospel in the community. She was found after three months, pregnant and traumatized by the incident.

To combat persecution, Open Doors has started a program called "Restorations." It aims to train and equip Christian leaders to fight persecution and provide socio-economic assistance. In addition, the program helps the victims of abuse heal from their traumas and reintegrate into the community, such as the evangelist's daughter.

Restorations program is based on biblical principles and character of Jesus, helping the families and community in responding to persecution with love and solidarity.