Why Christian women are the most persecuted group in the world

August 5, 2019

“Christian women are the most persecuted group in the world.” 

The first time I heard that statistic, I was sitting safely at church in Washington, D.C. David Curry, the president of Open Doors USA, came to speak about the plight of persecuted believers around the world. As he shared their stories, my heart was deeply grieved as I learned about how women and girls are doubly persecuted for their faith and their gender.

The founder of Open Doors USA, “Brother Andrew” earned the nickname “God’s Smuggler,” for his work smuggling Bibles into countries where it was illegal to own a Bible. One of the most notable stories was early in his ministry, where he successfully smuggled Bibles across the border into communist Romania. This small Eastern European country was my birthplace. I was born a little over a year after communism fell, but my time in Romania was brief, as I was adopted into an American family. I didn’t grow up under religious persecution, but I have friends in Romania who have shared vivid stories of their time under communism and the persecution the country faced for decades.

Religious persecution isn’t a thing of the past, ceasing when communism ended. Christians are heavily persecuted in many areas of the world. One in nine Christians will experience high levels of persecution, and gender-specific discrimination and persecution is rampant throughout the world.

The United Nations estimates that approximately 200 million girls are missing from the world due to sex-selective abortions, abandonment, or intentional murder. In addition to the millions of females that are missing, women and girls are routinely abused and mistreated, physically and sexually.

The definition of “gender discrimination” is simple, but the issue is complex.


An area of the world that’s of particular concern is the country of India. Approximately 239,000 girls under the age of five die in India each year due to neglect, simply because they are girls. Over the past decade, 2.4 million girls have lost their chance at life, either being abandoned, or murdered, because their families didn’t want another female. If a girl does manage to survive, Indian girls routinely receive less education, have poorer nutrition, and receive less medical attention than boys. The plight of Indian women is heartbreaking; one-third of women are illiterate, there are no laws preventing spousal rape, young women become child brides, and sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are common practices.

An Indian woman, interviewed for a documentary titled “It’s a Girl,” tells how she murdered eight of her children, because they were born female. After she gave birth, she tells about how she’d strangle her daughters after they were born.

Many families feel like they have no choice but to kill their daughters. In their minds, they justify quickly killing the child, instead of allowing her to grow up in extreme poverty, or having to come up with the money for a dowry.

Another horrible practice in India is dowry deaths. A “dowry death” is the murder or suicide of a married woman becaue of a dispute over her. Last year, an estimated 87,000 women were killed in dowry deaths around the world, and 50,000 of those women were killed by their spouse or family members. Women commit suicide, or are murdered by their husbands or in-laws for not meeting dowry demands. In India, it’s also more difficult for “ugly and handicapped girls” to get married, because the groom’s family would demand larger dowries. This practice is technically illegal in India, but is rarely prosecuted. Dowry deaths make the home one of the most dangerous places for women to be in the world.


The country with the most notable population of girls missing is China. The two most populous nations on earth, India and China, eliminate more girls each year than the number of girls that are born in the United States. Prospective parents prefer sons above daughters, and Chinese girls are routinely aborted, abandoned, or end up in orphanages. In 1979, the Chinese government instituted the “One Child Policy.” Under that restrictive policy, families that had more than one child were at risk of having their wages reduced, or losing social services.

In parts of the world, particularly in China and India, some of the deadliest words are “It’s a girl.” Sex-selective abortion affects girls disproportionately, and in many places, it’s legal to abort a child if they happen to be the unfavorable gender: female. The term “gendercide” describes this practice. In China, the men outnumber the women by 33 million, and in India, a girl is aborted every minute.

Other Forms of Gender Persecution

Another form of gender persecution is female genital mutilation, which is a removal of some or all of the female genitalia for nonmedical reasons. The humiliating procedure is most often performed on girls between birth and 15 years old. It’s estimated that more than 200 million girls and women have been subject to this cruel process. The traumatic event, often including being physically restrained while the procedure takes place, will emotionally affect women for the rest of their lives.

An issue that’s received attention over the past few years is the issue of human trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization, there are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, and 75 percent are women and girls.

The issues highlighted so far are just a few of dozens of examples where women and girls are discriminated against, and persecuted because of their gender.

Christian women and persecution

Let’s zoom in a little further, and talk about the plight that Christian women face around the world. Women are already discriminated against because they are women, but when they are found to be Christians, the suffering and persecution against them increases. Christian women are doubly persecuted. 

Christian persecution is growing globally. In 2019, an estimated 245 million Christians will experience high levels of persecution because of their faith. This is a 14 percent increase from last year. One of the trends from the Open Doors USA annual “World Watch List” report is that women are an increasing target. It’s important that we recognize how vulnerable our sisters are around the world, especially in the parts of the world where women already face such strong gender discrimination. In Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram captured a 15-year-old woman, killed her father, and then repeatedly raped her because she refused to renounce her faith. Sadly, her story is common in countries with high levels of persecution. 

The Bible on gender discrimination

As Christians, we uphold the truth that all people are created in the image of God—both male and female. Scripture is clear that men and women should be treated with the same levels of dignity and respect. Nowhere in the Bible do we see that one sex is superior to the other. Instead, we see our Savior upholding the dignity of women during his ministry on earth.

Women in ancient culture were vulnerable and mistreated. In a patriarchal society, the prayers of Jewish men included a prayer of thanksgiving, “Praised be God that he has not created me a woman.” Some Jewish writers taught that women should never leave the home, except to go to the synagogue.

Jesus’ treatment of women was countercultural. In one of the most remarkable stories in the Gospels, we see Jesus tenderly interact with the woman at the well. Not only was he speaking with a woman in public, she was also a Samaritan. Cultural protocol dictated that Samaritans and Jews didn’t interact, much less a Jewish man interacting with a Samaritan woman. Scripture doesn’t name the woman, but it doesn’t have to, because Jesus did something more important. The Samaritan woman came to the well in the middle of the day, when she thought no one would notice her drawing water. She was an outcast of society, shamed for her promiscuous behavior, yet in her conversation with Jesus, he treats her with kindness and interacts with her honestly. He doesn’t shy away from addressing her sin, but offers her living water.

What can we do?

So, how can we follow Jesus’ lead? 

Pray. Our first and most important action should be to pray for our persecuted sisters across the world. Our prayers deeply matter, and we can be a part of actively advocating for our sisters around the world through our prayers. 

Christians should help reimagine a world where it would be unthinkable that any woman is persecuted because of her sex. We should help raise awareness on this issue and speak on behalf of our sisters around the world. 

A practical step is to prayerfully consider whether the Lord is leading your family to adopt. There are thousands of girls that are eligible for adoption in countries such as India and China. If your family isn’t called to adopt, perhaps you can help financially support another family who is called to adopt. 

The statistics in this article are hard to comprehend, and heartbreaking. But may they propel us to our knees and into action for our vulnerable sisters around the world. 

Check out the latest issue of Light Magazine here

Chelsea Sobolik

Chelsea Sobolik serves as the Director of Public Policy with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in the Washington, D.C. office. Previously, she worked on Capitol Hill on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea has been published at the Wall Street Journal, USA … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24