While the Western world seems to have increasingly reduced religion to a private matter, if not a folkloric pastime, in other countries it is a political fact that enters the chessboard of power with unprecedented violence.
Religious freedom in fact, particularly that of Christians, is under attack in many places. The numbers are impressive: “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) notes that about 84 million people were forcibly displaced in 2021, 26 million of them outside the borders of their own country. Well, among these displaced people, many are Christians fleeing persecution.”
Many of these religious refugees are women. For them, staying in their homeland can be even worse, as another recently published report from the pontifical-law foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACS), entitled “Hear Her Cries: The kidnapping, forced conversion and sexual victimisation of Christian women and girls” . Also in this case The numbers speak for themselves and confirm “[…] an already known and terribly growing trend of rapes, forced marriages and forced conversions. The document reports in detail the recurring cases, drawing in particular on the realities of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Mozambique, Nigeria and Pakistan”.
In fact, in addition to the well-known and lesser-known cases in Pakistan, Egypt also presents a worrying scenario of religious persecution of women and their children. Michele Clark, human rights expert, professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington and co-author of the ACS report, states that “[…] violence against Christian women is a weapon to fight religious minorities. Moreover, it has to do with the very structure of Islamic law.”
This law provides, continues the researcher, that “[…] for a woman converted by force or forced by violence to marry a Muslim man, the return to the Christian faith is impossible, even if she manages to free herself or is repudiated. If the woman has children, they will always remain Muslims”.
Kidnapping, rape, forcibly converting and forcing into Muslim marriage, all unprecedented violence that the above-mentioned reports unfortunately recount as a widespread reality against women and girls, even very young ones, “[…] does not only mean to take away a single person from his own community, the Christian community. It means taking away a mother and her children”.
It happens in Egypt against Christian women, and it happens in a different way in Xinjiang of the People’s Republic of China against Uyghur Muslim women: those who suffer are, always, women. And their children, born or killed before they were born.