How girls’ ministry builds resilience and facilitates healing
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: your daughter being kidnapped. In rural Egypt the danger of kidnap always lurks for Christian girls. Harassment seems inescapable.
A village in rural Egypt spring 2018, a widower waits for his 21-year-old daughter Maggie* to return from her daily grocery shop. As time passes and she is still not back, he reaches for his phone, hoping to ease his worried mind. The opposite happens. The phone rings. An aggressive male voice instead of his girl’s: “Don’t call Maggie again, she is never coming home.”
Maggie was just one of many girls that disappeared in 2018. Last year more than 50 cases of Christian girls being kidnapped were reported. Daughters, sisters, friends—they go missing, often suddenly. Only a fraction of the girls return.
Melissa*, the country’s girls’ ministry leader, says: “Radical Muslim cells continue to monitor the living situation of Christian girls and women. They study their social situation and spread their spider net around them to finally kidnap them and force them into an Islamic marriage.”
One of the most commonly used tactics is grooming, a strategy in which a Muslim man feigns love to get closer to the girl. The low self-esteem that many Christian girls have is fertile ground for these type of kidnappers says Melissa. “We see that most kidnaps happen with insecure girls, or girls who have an unstable family.”
With your help Melissa and her colleagues could continue the girl’s ministry groups in Egypt, serving 18,900 girls in 1,250 groups. These groups lay the bases, not only for the prevention of kidnaps, but also for the prevention of other harassment of girls, which is even more common. “In 2018 I saw many girls transform from easy targets to strong girls who know who they are in Christ and are not afraid to speak up for themselves.”
But however prepared the girls are, they are never safe. Apart from grooming, kidnappers also use violence. This was the case with Maggie, who was already a participant of a girls’ ministry group when she was kidnapped. During a simple trip to the grocery store, she was pushed into a car, blindfolded and drugged. Her kidnappers took her to a place about 300 kilometres from her own village.
Maggie could share with us what happened next because she was one of very few girls who was returned. “I was kept in a room the only contact I had was with a completely veiled women who tried to convince me to convert to Islam for five whole days.” It was a real test of faith, Maggie says. But thanks to her relationship with Christ she stood strong “The devil was telling me all the time that no one would come to look for me. But I held on to the Lord.”
After seven days of praying and advocating fiercely, a miracle happened: Maggie was reunited with her family. But this didn’t mean that her struggle was over. At home, she started the difficult journey of recovering from her traumatic experience: “I was so afraid to go out of my home alone, even to go to church. I felt ashamed. I already had a hair problem before I was kidnapped, but because of the distress I felt my hair fell out much quicker than before.”
But Maggie she wasn’t alone in her journey: “My ministry group leader, Nora* showed me a lot of love, care and support. She visited me repeatedly in my home. She stood by my side in the difficult days after the kidnap. She even went with me to the doctor to get treatment for my hair problem and paid for it.”
Also the girls in Maggie’s group warmly welcomed Maggie back into their group. “They really stood by my side in this difficult period of my life. They helped me to restore hope and let go of my fear and the deep sense of shame,” Maggie says. “My self-esteem, sense of value and my life as a whole were restored. I’m so blessed to have Nora and my girls’ group. I praise God for them.”
STRUGGLE AND LIGHT
Like Maggie, hundreds of thousands of rural Christian girls in Egypt continue to struggle with the view society has of them, and the impunity and carelessness that crimes against them are treated with. They might not all be kidnapped, but they are not free.
“Our work is hard,” says Melissa. “It’s easy to get discouraged by all the misery we see, all the injustice that is happening. But, I see a light emerging in the darkness. God is touching the lives of these girls, He is looking for them, and He sends us to be carriers of His light for them, wherever they are.”
WHY DO CHRISTIAN GIRLS IN EGYPT FACE SO MUCH SEXUAL VIOLENCE?
Instead of a girl’s value coming from the knowledge that she is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our God, her value is greatly demeaned and misunderstood in terms of sexual purity. Going into marriage as a virgin is of utmost importance in Egypt. And, again, also here the women aren’t considered to be able to handle it themselves. Their purity is the honour of their father and other male family members. But the good-hearted emphasis on maintaining a young woman’s sexual purity has the paradoxical effect of treating her as a physical object useful to family needs, even including abuse at their hands.
Outside the Church the idea that a man’s, and even the Church’s, honour can be destroyed by attacking the physical bodies of Christian women puts a target on the back of every Christian woman and girl living under persecution. Many girls face harassment and even rape at work.
With your support we could continue our girls’ ministry groups that provide a safe place to heal from previous experiences and, at the same time, equip girls to shield themselves from kidnap and harassment in the future. The groups come together each 2 weeks.
Some examples of subjects on a bi-weekly meeting:
- Your value in Christ;
- How to be aware of harassment and how to avoid it;
- How to deal with your emotions;
- Inner healing;
- How to deal with your family;
- How to have a rich and quiet time with the Lord;
- The meaning of a girl’s life in God’s eyes.
The ministry workers also engage with the girls on an individual basis, coaching and guiding them spiritually. Ministry leaders also organize events for mothers, and visit them individually to help them in the care for their daughters.
*Name changed for security
Will you join us in changing the stories of persecuted Christian women, and give to support them?
Your gift will enable us to hold trauma counselling workshops for those who have experienced violence, provide a safe and encouraging space for women to share and grow together, provide necessities to widows, as well as train them to minister to other women.GIVE NOW: CHANGE THEIR STORY