WEA RLC Consultation for Women Leaders Serving in the Context of Persecution
12-15 June 2017
Christian women serving in persecuted contexts face distinctive forms of persecution for their faith. However, despite these challenges, the needs of women are often overlooked in efforts to strengthen the persecuted Church. During 12-15 June 2017, the WEA Religious Liberty Commission organized a consultation for women leaders serving in the context of persecution to identify issues faced by women, discern strategies to mitigate them, and to build resilience of women leaders serving in difficult contexts.
Held in Bangkok, Thailand, 32 women leaders representing 17 countries from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa attended the consultation, which was organized with the aim of empowering and equipping leaders to withstand persecution and become advocates for greater religious freedoms.
According to feedback received, the program was a valuable experience for all those who attended as God moved in a tremendous way -- challenging, equipping, and inspiring the participants to stand firm in their ministries and continue their work despite the challenges.
During the consultation, the participants were provided training on the biblical theology of persecution, a vision for religious freedom, practical advocacy, how to use new media for advocacy, dealing with damaged emotions and trauma, how to build resilience of those persecuted, and dealing with specific issues faced by women in persecuted contexts. The teaching sessions, which combined workshops and group activity, were well received by the participants. Moreover, feedback from participants also indicated that the training sessions were immensely valuable, as it was, for most, the first time that they received training on such topics. For instance, many stated that the sessions on religious freedom and advocacy inspired them to speak up for the rights of the persecuted in their contexts. Still more, others shared that they were encouraged to continue their ministries despite the challenges and the restrictions imposed on them. Many also stated that they felt equipped to return back to their communities and train others to withstand challenges as well as actively engage with issues of persecution and restriction in their countries.
Recommendations for women serving in persecuted contexts
The discussion sessions of the consultation were geared towards the compilation of a list of recommendations for women serving in the context of persecution. Following two days of in-depth discussions, a drafting committee was appointed to compile and expand the final list of recommendations put forward by the participants. This proved to be a value added outcome of the consultation. The drafting committee included senior church leaders from the different regions including an academic from Kenya, a journalist from India, a civil society leader from the Philippines, and a lawyer from Sri Lanka. Subsequent to final editing, the recommendations will be disseminated to evangelical alliances and church networks across the different regions.
Feedback from participants:
“This is the first time that I have attended a consultation like this. Since Christians are a religious minority in Bangladesh, the consultation helped me to better understand how we can cope with the situation back home. The consultation, therefore, was a fantastic experience. The training I received on advocacy was extremely useful. In fact, such training is vital for us going forward as a Church. Moreover, I look forward to sharing this knowledge I gained with the churches and denominations back home. Thank you so much for organizing this consultation and inviting us to attend.”
A participant from Bangladesh
I was blessed to be a part of this consultation. It was so encouraging to meet with all these ladies from the different countries. It was great spending time and listening to their testimonies. I loved the sessions and how it encouraged us to move forward as women serving the Church in difficult contexts. I am going back motivated; I was walking, but I am ready to fly!
A participant from India
Thank you so much for your hard work in making this consultation a possibility. Thank you also for investing so much in us. This is the first time that I received training on persecution and religious freedom. It was extremely helpful. I hope you can carry more programmes like this in the future as well.
A participant from Bhutan
The consultation gave us so much that we can take back to our women. Thank you for organsing this programme. We hope you can carry out an in-depth training on these topics in the future as well
A participant from Kenya
Thank you for organsing this programme. The consultation inspired as well as equipped me to stand up for persecuted women in Nepal. I look forward to doing so when I get back.
A participant from Nepal
WEA Religious Liberty Commission