"Religious Persecution is not Gender-Neutral"

On June 1, 2018 at Cassels Brock (Downtown Toronto) Christian Legal Fellowship held a seminar on female victims of religious persecution. Emma presented on the theme, “Religious Persecution is not Gender-blind”.

Emma regularly trains and teaches on a theology of suffering, persecution and risk and is part of the World Evangelical Alliance Church in Community department and the Women’s Commission. She works collaboratively in chairing a global forum examining the issues of women and persecution through global consultations. Emma also works with the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) Canada.

Emma addresses the luncheon attendees about religious persecution

Emma addresses the luncheon attendees about religious persecution

Luncheon attendees undoubtedly benefited from Emma's expertise and experience in the matter. Through her enlightening presentation[1]she conveyed a number of startling facts and statistics, shared her observations, and encouraged the listeners to take action and contribute to a global response to the genderized persecution of Christians.

During the presentation, the audience’s attention was drawn to one of the most recent examples of persecution: an attempted murder of a Christian Pastor in Northern India, and violence perpetrated against both male and female Christians. According to the news report,[2]the Pastor was spared through the efforts of his wife and other church members, as they hid him inside one of the rooms of his church. It was reported that women in the congregation were treated disgracefully and that both men and women suffered injuries requiring hospital treatment. Notably, this is not the first incident of persecution of Christians in the said region: there have been approximately 32 persecution incidents in 2017.[3]

Drawing on this example, as well as prior cases and statistics, the speaker explained that Christian men are subject to more focused, severe and visible attacks. Christian women, on the other hand, face complex, violent, and hidden persecution attacks, which are underreported and oftentimes lead to shame and rejection within both the community and the church.  In order to appreciate the extent and scope of persecution, Emma emphasized that it is important to learn to properly and sensitively listen to women so that they are encouraged to speak and overcome shame and other insecurities resulting from such strategic persecution tactics.[4]

One of Emma's key observations was that the types of pressure strategies used against men and women depend on their respective vulnerabilities and areas that would produce the most damage to their families or communities. For example, Christian men in certain regions are socially expected to be breadwinners and church leaders, and thus the most prevalent pressures against them take the form of job-related demands, non-sexual and verbal violence, military mobilisation, humiliation and imprisonment. As for women, their socially-expected chastity and proper family status in certain regions are most commonly threatened or destroyed through involuntary marriage, home confinement, educational discrimination, and forms of assault, including rape, sexual, non-sexual, domestic and verbal violence. It was further explained that there have been approximately 1.6 times more “pressure points” against women, than men.  Since family values are the shared “pressure points” for both genders, persecution attacks are often intended to cause isolation, shame and guilt, fear, financial losses, and to threaten the sustainability of present and future Christian families.

Statistics, shared by the speaker, suggest that there have been approximately 2.6 times more hidden acts of violence against women than visible violent attacks against men. It was explained that such a trend confirms that hidden attacks are less disclosed or addressed and, consequently, likely to continue to occur. However, by diagramming intersectional dynamics, it is possible to identify the spheres within which attacks are perpetrated. These include domestic, cultural and public structures. For example, in Egypt, an unequal socio-cultural status limits female access to state resources including education, which in turn may lead to poverty and disinheritance. Such an intersectional approach allows for a more proactive and strategic action plan to protect victims and prevent persecution and associated injustices. 

In light of these findings, Emma challenged the audience, as current or future global leaders, to become engaged in God-given strategies for addressing these issues through gaining better understanding, identifying the types of gender-based persecution, assimilating ideas, evaluating laws, policies and practices, advocating for change, and actively cooperating on these matters. In fact, there are many opportunities for a global response by way of prayers, campaigning, donations and raising of public awareness.[5]

Based on the foregoing, it is submitted that taking a collective action would not only help to save lives, families, and protect the dignity of men and women, but also allow for all involved to grow in faith and contribute to the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Pictured left to right: Floyd Brobbel (VP of International Ministry & Operations, VOM Canada), Emma, Ruth Ross (Special Advisor, CLF), and Derek Ross (ED & General Counsel, CLF)

Pictured left to right: Floyd Brobbel (VP of International Ministry & Operations, VOM Canada), Emma, Ruth Ross (Special Advisor, CLF), and Derek Ross (ED & General Counsel, CLF)




Special thanks Cassels Brock & Patience Omokhodion for hosting the luncheon, to Emma for speaking to the attendees, to Mr. Floyd Brobbel and VOM Canada, and to Aleksandra V. Balyasnikova-Smith for assisting in preparing this summary. 








[1]Emma, Religious Persecution is not Gender-Blind (unpublished)(Toronto, 2018).

[2]See “Pastor’s Wife Hides Husband from Hindu Extremists Seeking to Kill Him in Northern India”, (28 May 2018), online: Morningstar News. 

[3]See e.g. “Police, Hindu Extremists Halt Christmas Celebrations in Uttar Pradesh, India”, (8 January 2018).

[4]See e.g. “Church called to support persecuted women”, (6 June 2017), online: Diocese of Down and Dromore.

[5]See e.g. “Release International - Take Action”.

See this report also.