*representative image used to protect believer’s identity
When the Muslim rebels knocked on her door in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), Fabiana (her real name protected for security reasons) did not open it.
“Open the door or we will blow it open with grenades,” they shouted.
Fabiana had no choice. The attackers searched her house for Christian men. When they didn’t find any, they left. Fabiana thought she had escaped unharmed, but two of them came back, and while the one kept watch, the other raped her at gunpoint. Then they spitefully destroyed everything in the small shop Fabiana operated at the front of her house and left.
Gender-based violence against women and girls happens more and more frequently in the world of the Persecuted Church. It is best defined as violence directed against females because of their gender or violence that affects women disproportionately. It includes physical abuse (e.g. battery and sexual assault), psychological abuse (such as deprivation of liberty, forced marriage and sexual harassment), loss of resources (for instance health care, nutrition and education) and treating them as commodities (trafficking).
Gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world, and the U.N. estimates that it affects one in three women. It knows no social, economic or national boundaries.
In the conflict situations of CAR and northern Nigeria it has been used to subjugate non-Muslim societies and force them into Islam as part of a traditional jihadist approach.
When Muslim rebel groups joined forces and started conquering large areas of CAR at the end of 2012, Christians faced specific targeting in the form of assault, looting and murder. Thousands of women were raped.
In the violent an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria insurgency in northern Nigeria that began in 2009, violence against women formed an integral part of the group’s strategy to bring the area to its knees and force them to accept strict Sharia rule. At least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted, and as a rule they face systematic Islamization. Christians who are rescued or escaped are guilt-ridden afterwards.
Violence against women often has a double impact. “First they suffer the violence and then they suffer the sinful responses of families to the incident. The Church in CAR or northern Nigeria has not been immune to it,” explains the Open Doors trauma care coordinator for Africa.
This is a somber reality that makes one wonder if there is any hope. But the Word of God assures us that there is hope, and we have seen with our own eyes how even just a little help to victims restores significant hope.
“Victims of violence do not need to be locked away and written off,” says the Open Doors field worker. “A little help goes a long way. With the right care, lots of patience and love, and by God’s grace they can turn from victims into victors.”
Open Doors is equipping the Church in CAR and Nigeria to be better prepared to offer real help to the victims. Open Doors is helping alleviate the consequences of violence against women in CAR and Nigeria by providing relief aid, trauma care training and assistance in training in starting business ventures.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.