Open Doors USA: Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
(Published every Tuesday & Thursday)
July 3, 2014
Egypt: Widowed Christian Women Face Discrimination
Recently an Egyptian Christian woman who went to change her national ID card after her husband’s death realized that there was no status option listed for the widowed. The options are either married, divorced or single.
Officially, this “missing” status is also ignored by the Egyptian society. According to the Islamic Sharia law of the country, any widow inherits only one-eighth of her deceased husband’s property and money.
This neglected status can result in widely varying scenarios — anything from widowed women and their children being left starving with no money, to being shunned by other married women as a possible threat if the women are young and beautiful, to being forbidden to wear colorful clothing and required to wear black for life.
On a recent day focused on spiritual teaching, sponsored by the Widows Ministry, Madiha* stood out among the crowd of widows in black. Through her flooding tears and sobs, she gulped out words of praise and thanksgiving. It was clear that she was struggling with mixed strong feelings. She had lost her husband to cancer only a few weeks earlier, and with his death, lost everything they had accumulated.
Gratefully, she rejoiced that her husband Mamdouh* had come to know Christ a few months before he died, and was now in a better place, relieved from his incredible pain. When her husband reached a late stage in his illness, friends of the couple had told the Widows Ministry about them. During his last months, they were visited regularly, encouraged and helped. When the ministry visitors explained the truths of Christ’s love and forgiveness to them, both Madiha and Mamdouh accepted Him as their Lord.
Though it was for a short time, Mamdouh became a great witness, as his bitterness turned into acceptance and joy, despite the pain.
Sharing with her fellow widows, Madiha admitted that now that he was gone, she missed him a lot and grieved her loss. But she also confessed that she was angry at his brothers, who had kicked her out of the extended family home with her three young children, leaving her homeless.
As a ministry that helps poor rural widows to start and manage micro-projects, as well as supports them spiritually and socially, the Widows Ministry came alongside Madiha. It first managed to rent a small place for her and her children. The ministry also helped her start a project producing pickled vegetables and selling them to her neighbors in the village.
“The Lord is so good to us, now having somewhere to stay. And being able to make enough money to buy food is a big miracle,” she said. “I will start making jam, too, and selling it, so I can have some extra money before the children go back to school.”
After wiping a tear and a moment of silence, Madiha asked for prayers to be able to forgive her in-laws for their cruelty, and to go on in life alone without her beloved Mamdouh.
Then her face lit up as she said, “I know I am actually never alone, for my Lord is with me in every moment, and He carries my heavy burden with me. And He will lighten my heavy heart, too.”
Myanmar: Christian Chin Tribe Faces Continuing Persecution
Did you know that only one out of Myanmar’s eight major tribes is Christian?
They are the Chin people, residing in the hilly Chin State. For decades, they have faced the brunt of persecution from their government. The country aims to unify the nation through Buddhist assimilation.
Since the 1960s, the Chin tribe has had to endure physical and emotional trauma from the Burmese military, called the “Tatmadaw.” In 2009, Human Rights Watch called the Chin a forgotten people because although they endured excessive human rights abuses by the hands of the Tatmadaw, these abuses remain underreported, or are treated with impunity if reported at all.
Even now, despite Myanmar’s efforts towards democracy and the seemingly lessening human rights violations against the Chin, the tribe continues to face persecution for bearing the name of Christ.
Muan *, a Chin pastor, tells Open Doors: “They say by 2020, everybody in the country must be Buddhist. Recently, the officials built a pagoda beside our church. We were forced to contribute stones to build that pagoda.” Pastor Bhum* says: “We still receive the same oppression. Government officials extort money from us. They insist on it, and if we refuse, they threaten to stop our church.
“Until now, anybody who writes ‘Christian’ as their religion is hardly promoted in government offices,” Muan continues. “I know someone who converted to Buddhism just to be part of government service.”
Bhum adds: “The military changed their clothes, but they’re still the same ‘person.’ We still receive the same oppression.”
Myanmar is ranked No. 23 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List (www.worldwatchlist.us) of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.
*Names changed for security reasons