Last night the Boston Faith & Justice Network hosted an event about China’s ‘gendercide’ and the implications for the Church, in China and in the United States. This event is a part of our ongoing JusticeLINK program, an initiative designed to connect Christians to a theologically informed perspective on local and global justice issues. All Girls Allowed’s Director of Outreach, Vicky Banks, guest blogs today about China, gender and the church.
Have you ever thought about the value of a name?
The name that we are given at birth is the very first form of identification we are given. It is the first thing we will use when we introduce ourselves and it creates a unique tie to the family that named us, giving us a sense of belonging. In the Bible we see that God also places significance in names, giving people new names to establish in them a new identity. For example, God changed Abram’s name to “Abraham,” meaning “father of a multitude” and He changed Simon’s name to “Peter,” meaning “rock”.
So imagine for a moment that your name, used every day, is a painful reminder of a tie that caused you suffering and hurt. For so many child brides in China, their name links them not to a family that has cherished and loved them, but to a family who has bought and owned them.
Yuanying was born around October, 1976 in Changle, China. She doesn’t know the exact date because her parents sold her to human traffickers almost immediately after her birth. They wanted a son instead of their infant daughter and exchanged her for 89 yuan, which was $19 at that time.
The adoptive family who bought her planned to marry her to their youngest son when she came of age, a common practice in China. Over 30 years of a strict One-Child Policy has left a shortage of women and a growing single male population known as ‘bare branches’.
But Yuanying resolutely refused. So the beatings came, sometimes leaving her unconscious. She started working for a salary at 12 years old, which was collected by the adoptive family, leaving Yuanying only an allowance of less than a dollar a month. She faced hunger every day. After five years of this, she was sold by the family at age 17 for a price of 2,100 yuan ($3,500). She bore two sons for her husband, but as a bought bride, she was treated like a slave by the new family. She was forced to do all the chores in a huge extended household in addition to going out to work. When the situation became intolerable, she escaped and asked for a divorce.
Alone in the world, Yuanying only wanted to find her birth parents.
The Bible tells us that both men and women are created in the image of God and yet continually all over the world today, women are devalued by those responsible for their protection. Of the 3 families that Yuanying encountered, every one of them failed to love her for the image-bearer that she is.
So ingrained is the devaluing of women in China that, coupled with the One-Child Policy, it is leading to a ‘gendercide’- the deliberate extermination of girls through pre-natal sex selection, infanticide, abandonment and trafficking. There are now 37 million more men than women in China because of gendercide, and the gap is widening. The staggering gender imbalance means that China faces increases in sex trafficking, the spread of HIV/ AIDS, as well as security problems for neighboring countries. The outlook for women is so bad that suicide is now the number 1 cause of death for women in China between the ages of 15-34 and the nation accounts for 56% of the world’s female suicides. 500 women will commit suicide today alone.
Sadly, even within the growing house church movement in China (125 million people have come to faith in Jesus Christ in the last 20 years) gendercide has taken root. Some Chinese pastors do speak out against infanticide and abortion, but many are silent on the topic, and in some cases church pastors will encourage their congregants to have abortions in compliance with the One-Child Policy. With 4 out of 5 women in China having experienced at least one abortion, and a third of Chinese families having suffered domestic violence, we know that even the church does not guarantee women security and love.
Chinese believers have a profound sense of mission amid persecution. At this moment, multitudes of Chinese Christians are praying earnestly for the Lord to raise up ministers to take the gospel to the outer reaches of China. As 80% of church members in China are women, we know women are going to have a huge role in bringing the Good News. But how can a woman truly share the gospel message when she continues to suffer pain, abuse and oppression? Missionaries in the country say that the Chinese church’s greatest struggle is not persecution, as we might expect. Rather, the biggest hindrance to their witness comes from the broken relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ.
As Christians here in the West seeking to support the Chinese church, we first have to take an honest look at ourselves and understand that we, too, approach this issue from a place of brokenness and humility. Although we do not commit forced abortions, we know there are many actions we take as individuals that are devaluing women, and which the church too often ignores.
In America, the 50% divorce rate among professed Christians parallels that of non-believers, and nearly half of all married people will have an extramarital affair. 90% of men admit to viewing pornography, including Christian men and astonishingly, half of all pastors. Our music, our movies, our schools are filled with images and ideas that encourages violence against and the sexual objectification of women. The first step to ending the worldwide war on baby girls is to start with ourselves.
At All Girls Allowed, we have been working to establish projects on the ground in China that encourage mothers to keep daughters, help mothers facing forced abortion, educate orphan girls and reunite families with trafficked children. However, we believe that the root of gendercide is the devaluing of women, and a deep-seated need for a redeeming of male and female relationships. We believe that God is calling the church to—in Jesus’ name—“simply love her.”
Maybe you are wondering what happened to Yuanying. Through God’s grace she was reunited with her biological sister. Last October, Yuanying told one of our workers, “Could you think of a new name for me? My real father’s surname is Liu.” She decided to change her name to Liu Yalin. She has now devoted all of her energies to reuniting fellow child brides with their families. It is her hope that through her efforts, more and more sisters with stories just like hers would be able to reclaim their dignity, find their families and name their own names. Praise God that he truly uses the weak things of this world to shame the wise, and that it is when we find ourselves truly broken and humble before him that healing and restoration can begin for ourselves and those around us.
All Girls Allowed is committed to restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy. Please visit the All Girls Allowedwebsiteto find out how you can play a role in forging new identities, grounded in the belief that both men and women were created in the image of God.