India (MNN) ― The world is honoring nearly 44 million refugees tomorrow on World Refugee Day. And, while life as a refugee is unimaginable, it’s 100 times worse for a widow.
Worldwide, there are an estimated 115 million widows living in poverty. Around 81 million have been abused; due to social stigma, widows are much more likely to be targeted for crimes like rape, torture, or murder.
In a number of countries, widows are thought to be cursed, involved in witchcraft, or to have somehow caused the death of their husbands. As a result of these superstitious beliefs, millions of widows are being subjected to a life of social exclusion, physical and mental abuse, and degradation.
India holds over a third of the world’s widows, or 40 million women. Some regions are known to hold thousands of widows, places like Vrindavan in north India or the “Village of Tigers” in West Bengal. With an average of 50 male casualties every year from tiger attacks, West Bengal records the highest percentage of India’s 40 million widows.
No matter where they’re located, India’s widows abide by a dismal code of conduct. After losing their husbands, widows live the rest of their lives in a state of perpetual isolation, shame, and visible mourning. They’ll shave their heads, remove all jewelry, never wear color again, and spend their days chanting and begging for a meal.
In India, to even look upon a widow is considered bad luck. But Gospel for Asia (GFA) is breaking the social stigma to share God’s love with this group of outcasts. Through women missionaries and compassion services, GFA is meeting widows’ basic needs.
“God sees the suffering of these widows who have been rejected,” says GFA founder and president KP Yohannan. “He has put it in our hearts to reach out to them with His love and care.”
Sunday is International Widows’ Day, and GFA is going above and beyond their normal range of care for this desperate people group. In the state of Assam, a GFA Women’s Fellowship is bringing piglets to a group of widows to provide them with a source of income. In addition, a special meal will be held for widows, and each woman will be presented with a sari.
In Tamil Nadu, a GFA Women’s Fellowship team plans to make special visits to widows, and special programs for widows will be held in the states of Karnataka, Nagaland, and Uttar Pradesh.
Through donations, local believers are enabled to help widows through the purchase of income-generating necessities like sewing machines and farm animals, as well as much-needed supplies like water filters or winter blankets.
Learn more about GFA’s ministry to widows and how you can help by clicking here.