CARROLLTON, Texas – On June 23, the third annual International Widows’ Day will focus the world’s attention on one of its most rejected and abused groups. In many cities and rural villages in multiple countries, cultural and ancient religious beliefs still inflict extreme discrimination against widows. In many cases they are essentially banished from society.
Gospel for Asia is responding to these women and their children who are in need on International Widows’ Day and through ongoing ministries with celebrations of hope, gifts, training and meeting basic needs through compassion services.
“God sees the suffering of these widows who have been rejected,” said K. P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia (GFA) founder and president. “He has put it in our hearts to reach out to them with his love and care.”
International Widows’ Day was recognized by the United Nations in 2010 to bring world attention and action to the women who reap this injustice. Begun by the Loomba Foundation (www.theloombafoundation.org), the annual date is set as June 23, the day Loomba’s mother became a widow in 1954.
Age-old belief systems cast a lasting stigma, making victims of innocent women. In many world areas, regardless of the true cause of their husbands’ deaths, women are labeled responsible because of unknown sins they committed in a former life. Their punishment is loss of all property and possessions, complete exclusion from society and all religious life, and banishment from their own homes. Because they are considered bad luck, no one wants to have anything to do with them.
In some places, widows are required to wear only white clothes, the color of death, and observe strict fasts. Many also endure repeated beatings from ruthless landlords and angry family members.
Locked out of their homes and without source of income, many of these widows resort to digging through waste dumps for food and make their shelter from trash and rubble. Many fall prey to slavery and the sex trade. Suicide rates soar among these widows.
“In the midst of such injustice and poverty, there is yet hope,” said Yohannan. “Through the hands-on ministries of women missionaries, widows are regaining human dignity and understanding that there is a God who loves them.”
Gospel for Asia’s ongoing ministries include care for widows with leprosy and the “tiger widows,” those living in West Bengal, home to India’s largest Tiger Reserve and National Park. With an average of 50 male casualties every year from tiger attacks, West Bengal records the highest percentage of the 40 million widows throughout India. Gospel for Asia officially organized its ministry to widows there on June 23, 2011, the first official International Widows’ Day.
This year on June 23, GFA will be spreading hope and care to widows throughout India and surrounding countries through its Women’s Fellowships and on campuses of its women’s bible colleges. Special meals and worship services are planned. In some areas widows will receive piglets as a source of income, and in another, saris will be distributed.
According to GFA, giving colorful saris to widows not only meets a practical need, but also shows love and honor.
Through donations, lives of these rejected women in Southeast Asia can be altered drastically. Products such as sewing machines and small animals restore income, hope and dignity. GFA has inaugurated several centers where widows receive shelter, food, clothing, medical care, literacy training and home industry skills. Gifts will support these ministries and enable expansion of eight additional centers.
To make a life-changing donation, visit www.gfa.org/helpwidows.
“God’s Word calls us to visit widows in their distress and to care for them,” said Yohannan. “We cannot neglect those who are suffering through no fault of their own.”
Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.org) is a mission organization based in Carrollton, Texas, involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.
- See more at: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2013/06/17/international-widows-day-a-day-of-action-against-ongoing-poverty-and-injustice/#sthash.AIcTazsp.dpuf