Imagine this. The room is dark, but you lie awake. Sleep slips further and further away from you as your mind churns round with anxiety. You are a teenage girl from a Muslim family in Algeria, and you have a secret. You have given your heart and your life to a man: a man named Jesus. You have done the unthinkable and become a Christian.
Something I’ve recently realised is how privileged I am, and how much freedom I have, as a British woman. I grew up in a family; church; school and community where girls are viewed as equal to guys. Virtually no limits were placed on what I could do or aspire to because of my gender. For a long time I thought this was every girl’s experience. But now I know I was wrong.
In a lot of societies being a girl puts you right at the bottom of the pecking order. You are more likely to be illiterate; more likely to drop out of school early; to be married off young; to face abuse; and more likely to be poor. In Islamic countries Christian women are further down the pecking order than Muslim women, and Muslim women who convert to Christianity are even worse off.
One of the many things I love about Jesus is that he doesn’t leave women out.
When Grace*, a girl from an Algerian Muslim family, became a Christian her parents pressurised her to go back to Islam. But she wouldn’t. Grace escaped from this when she married a Christian man, but knows that her story could have been so different. ‘Parents can impose their Christian daughter to marry a Muslim, something that is contrary to the Word of God… If the girl wants to marry a Christian and the parents refuse this marriage…the law requires that her guardian, who is the father, brother or uncle must witness to have an official marriage.’
In Islamic societies the honour of the family is often directly linked to the behaviour of the girls and women in the family. If a girl converts to Christianity it is deeply shaming, not just because she has converted but also because she has effectively undermined the men governing the family. As Grace tells us, a woman ‘has so little rights except the right to exist, as long as she stays silent.’ Many of them will keep their faith a secret in order to avoid pressure, rejection and humiliation from their families.
I’m a fairly outspoken person. I have my own opinions about most things and I love sharing them! True, this sometimes gets me into trouble, but I just can’t imagine not being able to have my own opinions, my own faith and not having a voice.
One of the many things I love about Jesus is that he doesn’t leave women out. He shocked the people of his day by talking to them, hanging out with them, teaching them and sending them to share his good news: even the women who were at the very bottom of the pile, like the Samaritan woman at the well (see John 4:1-42).
Grace’s story has made me realise the freedom I have to choose what I believe, I get to make up my own mind and not have it imposed on me by a male relative. The freedom to choose your own faith is a fundamental human right, a human right we know is violated for so many people – but it can be particularly tough if you’re a girl. I’m free to be the ‘me’ God created me to be, and so are you regardless of whether you are a guy or a girl. Let’s use that freedom to help those who don’t have it.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.