India (MNN) — Widows, the poorest of the poor, are shunned from society when their husbands die. It's not for religious reasons, but because of tradition–and because they're seen as a financial drain on their families.
Of India's approximately 1.21 billion people, 40 million are widows. There's a widow in one of four homes. And even though she and others like her make up a significant part of the population, a South Asian widow rarely receives the love and respect usually reserved for elders.
Widowhood is at the absolute bottom of India's five-tiered caste system, falling even below the Dalits or "Untouchables." They can't remarry or wear jewelry and are often forced to shave their heads. Because of her husband’s death, a widow is seen as a curse; even her shadow is considered bad luck.
Many widows are left to care for smaller children and receive little or no help from relatives, so street begging or prostitution quickly becomes a way of life.
Grown children often ignore the needs of an elderly widowed mother, and 92% of India's women age 70 and older are widows. Realizing the pain and desperation these women face daily, a Gospel for Asia fellowship decided to hold a special event for elderly widows.
Believers invited women from nearby villages as well as their own, and more than 150 people gathered to celebrate the 48 widows who accepted the invitation.
Many people believe that a headscarf signifies respect and honor for women. Hindu women will cover their heads and at least partly obscure their faces in the company of unrelated adult males, highlighting the fact that veiling is not exclusively Muslim.
At the GFA event, each widow received a headscarf, a true honor to women who have been soundly disregarded for years.
“I am really happy and thankful to Pastor Barnabas, because for the first time in my life, I am receiving this special gift,” said Sadhvi, a 97-year-old widow. “No one had given me one before.”
After distributing the scarves, three women from local churches shared from the Bible, expressing Christ’s love for the widows and sharing how they could follow Him.
“I came to know that there is someone who always cares about people like us,” said 75-year-old Laabha. “He is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The widows left with joy in their hearts, and the church is already praying about what they can do next to show God’s love.
Pray that God would keep revealing His love for these women through GFA. Pray that widows would come to salvation through Jesus Christ after hearing about His love.
Pastors in India supported by GFA live Isaiah 1:17 daily: "Learn to do good. Seek justice. Defend the cause of the orphans. Fight for the rights of widows." They help widows in need and buy them income-producing tools like sewing machines and farm animals, or an essential supply like winter blankets or water filters.
With these gifts, many times comes the opportunity to learn of Jesus Christ. You can help deliver hope to some of the most broken women in Asia by clicking here.