International Day of the Girl

On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks.   I couldn’t sleep.   I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again.  It really hurt down there.   Why did he hurt me?  Did I do something bad?  I can’t tell anyone.  He said that no one will believe me.  I can’t tell my mother.  She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.

Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go.   Sometimes I wish I was never born.  Sometimes I wish I could die.

One day my father got very ill and a week later he died.  I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t.  I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.”  My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other.  They used to fight a lot.  Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk.  Now it was just her, my two brothers and me.   Life did not get better after my father died.  I was still treated badly and beaten.  I worked hard while my brothers played.  Life was hard and unfair.  But what could I do?

Then, one day, three women came to our village.  One of them came to our home.  She had a kind face.  Her name was Sister Hope.  She spoke to my mother.  She talked about Jesus.  I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother.  My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about.  Sister Hope smiled and left.  I was outside doing my chores.   She saw me and she came over to me.  She smiled and asked me my name.  She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.

As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them.  She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre.  It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while.  I asked her if she could speak to my mother.

I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons.  The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that.  I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated.  My father abused me since I was five years old.  My mother never loved me because I am a girl.  She loved my two brothers.  Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.

It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies.  I was still hurting inside.  Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me.  One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her.  I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures.  When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad.  I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me.  No one had ever cried for me before.  No one had ever felt sorry for me.  When I was at home, I was all alone.  I had no one to share my pain with.  No one cared.  No one asked me anything.  I didn’t matter to them.  But here, I did.

After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands.  She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you.  He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you.  He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”

When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry.  I cried for a while.  Rashmi sat there, holding my hands.  Then, I stopped crying and felt better.  The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore.  I felt God’s love fill me.  It felt warm.  That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.

Rashmi taught me from the Bible.  I learned more about God and how much He loved me.  I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life.  I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed.  He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me.  He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me.  He was the father and mother I never had.

Jesus became my Friend.  He filled me with a peace that I never had.  He is always there.  When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl.  I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl.  He had friends who were women.  He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.

My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”

I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.

Now I am 15 years old.  I have been going to the centre for three years.  I love it here.  I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus.  I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls.  Jesus loves them.

This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia.  Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.

From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.

Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.  Read her story.

International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world.  This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.

This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls.  Girls face discrimination because of their gender.  They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty.   The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone.  When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl).  Girls matter!  They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited.   Invest in a girl today!

There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight.  He rejoiced when they were born.  Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell.  Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ.  Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).

Celebrate the power and potential of girls!

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; UNICEF; Because I am A Girl

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Women of Faith Persecuted

I received this persecution and prayer alert from The Voice of Martyrs Canada.  Imagine your teenage daughter is gang-raped, beaten and her life is threatened because you left Islam?  This is the reality for women who have converted to Christianity.  Their families threaten them, their husbands leave them and they could lose custody of their children.  They are attacked.  During these awful times, it is hard for them to remain strong in their faith and that’s why they need our prayers.  As you read their stories, try to imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes.

UGANDA: Abuse Perpetrated Against ‘Women of Faith’

Sources: Release International, Morning Star News

Pray for the safety of women in Uganda.
Photo: Flickr / CIAT (cc)

A teenager from eastern Uganda, whose parents had converted to Christianity, was gang raped and beaten a few weeks ago. The 19-year-old college student was still receiving hospital treatment nine days after the attack which took place in the Bukedea district.

Three masked men ambushed the young woman as she was returning from her teacher training college on September 19th. They threatened to kill her because her parents had left Islam, then they beat her to an unconscious state. She was discovered by passersby the next day. This attack has worrying similarities to the gang rape of a pastor’s daughter that took place in the predominantly Muslim Budaka district of east Uganda earlier this year.

Meanwhile, also in Budaka, a mother of eight attests that she has been forced to return to Islam, after in-laws threatened to kill her and take away her children. The woman’s husband left her ten years ago because she became a Christian. The discouraged 36-year-old mother is said to be “spiritually troubled” and has asked for prayer that God would restore her to Christ.

Ask the Lord to greatly comfort and heal both of the young Christian women who were raped and beaten. May He protect them from any further harm, and bring needed comfort to their concerned families, strengthening each of them in their faith. In addition, please uphold the abused mother from Budaka who was forced to convert to Islam, praying that she will experience God’s presence, restoration and protection. Ask Him to also protect her children — both physically and spiritually. Let us also be mindful to intercede on behalf of our other persecuted brothers and sisters in Uganda, praying that they will put their trust fully in God, even amid the rising persecution in certain areas — particularly against Christians of a Muslim background.

To post a prayer on behalf of those who are suffering for their Christian faith in other parts of the world, please visit our prayer wall.

We have read in the Bible how believers of the early churches were persecuted, scattered or martyred for their faith.   Jesus warned that we would face tribulation.  He said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:9, 10).  However, He also gave us this assurance, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14).  

I pray that these women will not lose their faith and that they will hold on Jesus’ promises.  They each have a crown laid up for them.  Let us pray that they will persevere so that they can receive their crowns.  And it’s encouraging to know that no matter what opposition, tribulation or persecution Christians face, none of these things will stop the everlasting Gospel from being preached to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6).

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? – 1 Thessalonians 2:19 

Life for Women in India

Beneath the veil of society are the tears of India’s most oppressed members of society–women.  The movie, The Veil of Tears tells the untold story of millions of women who are victims of abuse, abandonment, adversity and gender segregation.  This movie dares us to go beyond awareness and to take action.  I encourage you to watch the trailer.

India has the reputation of being one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. They are married early, having no say in the matter.  Arranged marriages are still the norm.  They need to get permission to visit the doctor.  According to a survey, 54 per cent said they expected to be beaten by their husbands if they left the house without his permission.  Women are also beaten if they cook a dish badly or if their dowry is inadequate or if they neglect their household duties.

Life in India is a constant struggle for women.  Veil of Tears draws us into their dark reality but also allows us to share in their triumphs.  And in spite of all the suffering, there is hope.  Through the work and ministry of Gospel for Asia, these women can be rescued from persecution and rejection and given the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ.

For more information about the movie and how you can help to make a difference visit this link:  http://veiloftearsmovie.com/

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

Sources:  The Globe And Mail; Gospel for Asia

Ugandan Christian Teenager Beaten and Disowned

Imagine being badly beaten and disowned because you give your life to Jesus Christ. Jesus predicted that this kind of thing would happen.  “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. “For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.  Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” In the case of Saidha, it was father against daughter.  When her adoptive father learned that she and her sister had converted to Christianity, she was beaten.

In some countries in the world, there is no such thing as religious liberty.  People are persecuted or killed for their faith.  Please pray for the brave souls who, like the apostle Paul, “also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8).  Pray for teenagers like Saidha who are disowned by their families that they continue in their faith, trusting in the loving care of the Lord.

UGANDA: Christian Teenager Beaten and Disowned

Source: VOM USA

Saidha

A teenager was recently beaten by her adoptive father when he discovered that Saidha and her sister had converted to Christianity. The girls, who live in the primarily Muslim village of Bwite, accepted Christ after hearing the Gospel message at an evangelistic meeting. When their adoptive father, Ali Sooka Abudalah, learned about their new faith, he beat Saidha with a club. Ali, the son of the local imam, had adopted Saidha and her sister after their biological father died several years ago.

Saidha’s face was left badly swollen after the heartless beating, requiring that she spend about a week in a medical clinic while being treated for her injuries. Ali then determined that since Saidha had decided to leave Islam, she could no longer be raised as one of his children. He took her to a church in the village and notified local authorities that he intended to leave her in the custody of a church leader. In an official document, Ali turned over custody of the girl to the pastor, adding that he does not “want to know or hear any matter concerning her because she confessed Christ as her personal Saviour.” The letter was signed on December 13th, 2014, by Ali, 12 witnesses and several other local officials.

A VOM worker visited Saidha a few weeks ago, after travelling several hours to reach her. Thankfully, the teen is presently being well cared for in the home of evangelist Muwanguzi Hassan, another convert from Islam to Christianity. Muwanguzi and his wife care for 17 other children who were also disowned by their families for the same reason. The couple is one of just four Christian families residing within their Muslim village.

Thank the Lord for the steadfast faith of Saidha! May the love and support of this new Christian family sustain and encourage the young believer as she rebuilds her life. In particular, may God grant complete healing from the physical assault she encountered, as well as recovery from the emotional wounds of being abandoned by her adoptive father. Pray that Saidha’s sister will also continue to grow in the Christian faith, and that God will keep both of these precious girls safe in His loving care. Additionally, may He move powerfully in this Muslim village so that many more will learn the truth of the Gospel.

To post a prayer of support for this courageous young sister in Christ, visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall (The Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Rape in South Africa

I barely caught the headline about a South African girl who was raped and badly beaten.  I searched for the story on the Internet and came across some startling information.  Apparently South Africa is known as the “rape capital”.  According to Women’s groups, a woman is raped every 26 seconds.  The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world.

For the period 1998–2000, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita according to the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs for the period 1998–2000.  It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only 1 in 9 rapes are reported.  It is also estimated that 14% of perpetrators of rape are convicted in South Africa.  According to a survey that questioned rape victims who did not report the crime to the police, 33.3% of victims cited they feared reprisals, 9.6% cited that they felt the police would not be able to solve the crime, and 9.2% cited embarrassment as their reasons for not reporting the crime.

There are several different forms of sexual violence, including, but not limited to: rape or sexual assault, child sexual assault and incest, intimate partner sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact/touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, revealing one’s genitals to another without consent, public masturbation, and voyeurism.  There are several types of sexual violence cases in South Africa that have specifically garnered a significant amount of international attention:

South Africa has the highest reported incident of rape in the world.  While men are also subjected to sexual violence and 3.5% of men have been forced to have sex with other men, the majority of sexual violence is against women.  The South African government reports that one of these reasons is the culture of patriarchy in South Africa. Its report states that patriarchy is firmly rooted in the country and fighting it is seen as attempting to destroy African tradition or Afrikaner ideals.  The danger from rape and sexual assault is compounded because of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South African townships. A woman being raped over the age of 25 has a one in four chance that her attacker is HIV positive and more women than men are affected from HIV/AIDS.   The perpetrators of rape in South Africa tend to be men known to the victim.  It is reported that a husband or boyfriend kills a woman every six hours in South Africa.  Many men and women say that rape cannot occur in relationships; however, one in four women reported having been abused by an intimate partner.

Corrective rape is prevalent in South Africa.  More more than 10 women per week are raped or gang-raped in Cape Town alone because of their sexual orientation.  31 have been died from their attacks.  Two years ago Noxolo Nogwaza , 24 years old was raped, beaten and stabbed to death on her way home from a night out with her friends in the South African township of Kwa Thema on 24 April 2011.  Her brutalised body was dumped in a shallow ditch.  It is believed that the motive was her sexual orientation.  Little progress is made on her case and her attackers still remain at large.

There is also the problem of sexual violence in schools.  girls from all levels of society and ethnic groups have been subjected to sexual violence at school in bathrooms, empty classrooms, dormitories, and more. Police, prosecutors, and social workers have also complained that many incidents of sexual violence in schools are not reported to them because schools often prefer to deal with it internally, thus hindering justice against the perpetrators. The danger of sexual violence in schools has created a barrier for girls to seek education. HRW also reported that South African girls’ school performance suffers after an incident of sexual violence.

Societal attitudes contribute to this epidemic.  The Medical Research Council states, “Many forms of sexual violence, particularly sexual harassment and forms of sexual coercion that do not involve physical force are widely viewed as normal male behaviour.”

Among children, a survey by CIET found 60% of both boys and girls, aged 10 to 19 years old, thought it was not violent to force sex upon someone they knew, while around 11% of boys and 4% of girls admitted to forcing someone else to have sex with them. The study also found that 12.7% of the students believed in the virgin cleansing myth.

In a related survey conducted among 1,500 school children in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that ‘jackrolling’, a term for gang rape, was fun.  Furthermore, more than half the interviewees insisted that when a girl says no to sex she really means yes.  It is also noteworthy that those in this study were school children as age is significantly associated with rape. Men from ages 20–40 are more likely to have raped than younger or older men.

Market Research Africa, a Johannesburg-based market research agency, reported in 1994 that 76% of men felt that women had a right to say no to sex, one third thought that women could not decide for themselves on abortion, and 10% condoned a man beating a woman or his wife.

I can’t imagine why anyone would think a woman means “yes” when she is fighting off the man’s unwanted attention.  “No” means “no”.   No woman wants to be forced to have sex with anyone.  Sex is supposed to be consensual.  And rape is not sex.  It is an act of violence.  The 17 year old girl was brutally raped.  The Cape Town newspaper, Cape Argus newspaper stated that she was sliced open from her stomach to her genitals and then dumped as if she were trash on a building site in the town of Bredasdorp, 130 km (80 miles) east of Cape Town.  What is going to become of this?  Will there be justice for this victim in a country where rape has lost its power to shock?  The government of the Republic of South Africa is aware of this problem of sexual violence against women and there is a law which is supposed to ensure rights of all of the people in South Africa with the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.  Furthermore, it calls for the right to freedom and security, including freedom from all forms of violence by either public or private sources and the right to bodily and psychological integrity, including reproduction and bodily security.

It seems to me that the law has very little effect on the violence it is supposed to be protecting its women  from.   The harsh reality is that women are being brutally raped and abused and are not receiving adequate psychological, social, or medical care.  There are few places rape and abuse victims can turn.  The Simelela Centre is one of those places.  It was established in 1998 in response to a case involving the rape of a 1-year-old girl at the hands of her father in Khayelitsha’s Site C.

Something needs to be done and fast.  Women should not be living in fear.  Imagine the fear of your son growing up and one day raping your neighbor’s daughter?   The way men view women has to change.  The law has to do more to protect women and girls.  It’s time for the lawmaker to fulfill their promises.

Outrage grows over the incident, according to a news report on CNN.  Many marched the streets of Bredasdorp toward the crime scene, chanting, “No violence! No violence.”  Residents say that this attack is uncharacteristic of the rural town.  I read that the girl’s injuries were so horrific that the hospital staff who battled to save her life needed counseling.  She was able to identify one of her attackers before she died.  He was a family friend. The victim’s aunt had this to say about him, “He was a lovely child to have in the house.  He was her friend, and it’s just incomprehensible.”

He and two others have been arrested.  More arrests are forthcoming.  Two of the men arrested have been charged been charged with murder and rape, the same charges the third will face.  Let’s hope that they all will be brought to justice.  It’s unfortunate that it had to take this young girl’s horrific ordeal and subsequent death to spark outrage.  There was the case of a mentally handicapped girl, same age as this last victim was raped by seven men, aged between 14 and 20 and the attack was recorded on a cell phone video which later went viral.  The men are on trial.  Unfortunately, this incident failed to gain the same outrage and attention as did the gang rape in New Delhi.  Columnist Rachel Davis of the online publication, Daily Maverick, raised this disturbing question:  “If the gang-rape of a mentally handicapped 17-year-old failed to get thousands on the streets in protest, what will?”

The men of South Africa need to stand up with the women and speak out against this epidemic.  The perpetrators of these crimes need to be brought to justice and women and girls need to feel safe in their communities.  Girls should be able to go to school and learn in a safe environment.  Their education is important.  They should not be forced to stay out of school because they are afraid of being attacked.  Girls should not have to live in fear of being brutally raped by strangers or even men they know.  Women should not be treated as if they have no value.  Violence against women and girls needs to be taken seriously and the public needs to make as much noise as possible, letting the government and the perpetrators know that they have had enough.  Let us join the men and women of South Africa and say, “No more violence!”  In the words of one of the women from Bredasdorp, “…we must do something.”  No more silence.  It’s time to take action!  Let the death of Anene Booyson count for something.

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Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_violence_in_South_Africa; http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/south-africa-girl-dies-after-rape-comparison-made-to-indian-case-327511; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/06/ana-matronic-backs-amnesty-write-for-rights-campaign; http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/domestic-violence/dv-africa/dv-safrica/1386-violence-against-women-in-contemporary-south-africa.html; http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/08/world/africa/south-africa-gang-rape/index.html; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/06/us-safrica-rape-idUSBRE9150VZ20130206