Where do young girls go, when no place seems safe?
Her name means "priceless," but 13-year-old Ain feels anything but valuable. Perhaps "expendable" is a more accurate description. She is one of 10 children living in a two-room house in the outskirts of Cairo. At night, she curls up next to her sisters on the corner of a thin mattress laid on the floor. Ain is quiet. She has never been one to draw attention to herself or burden anyone with her needs…but she is a burden—another mouth to feed.
Girls like these young Egyptians may soon be forced into an early unwanted marriage.
It was not difficult for her to discern her parents' disdain, and disappointment that she was not born male. Her brothers will grow up and provide for the family. She is nothing more than a nuisance. When her mother would grow impatient with her, she would bolt the front door and keep Ain from entering. Ain cried herself to sleep on the ground outside the house.
A few days after Ain's 13th birthday, a man came to the door. Her father warmly shook the hands of the man and motioned for him to enter. Ain was shocked when her father introduced her to the man. Badru looked to be about her father's age, but the way he smiled at her made her suddenly feel embarrassed. Did he find her attractive? How could he? Thin. Gawky. Barely older than a child, she had not yet attained the curves of a woman Badru’s age. "Ain," Badru said. "What a beautiful name. You are a beautiful girl."
Badru’s visit was followed by several more. He showered her with compliments. She actually started to believe some of them. Within a few weeks, Badru asked Ain to marry him. He promised to take her away from the crowded little house and the unloving family. He promised her a new life. How could she refuse?
Ain was hastily married to Badru, and sent home with him to live in a house with three other wives. As a Sunni Muslim, Badru received a monetary reward from Muslim friends in Saudi Arabia for "converting" a Christian girl to Islam. Ain’s family were nominal Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. He was unkind to her. She was confined to a room, where he visited for only one reason. She became a mother at the age of 14, and would raise his children by herself.
A shoulder to lean on
In already overcrowded families, girls are considered an unnecessary financial burden and are married off as soon as possible. They are uneducated and usually abused. Marriage seems like a way to escape the pain, but in reality it is only another unsafe place for these young, frightened girls.
These girls receive Bibles from an indigenous ministry working with vulnerable teenagers.
Indigenous ministries supported by Christian Aid offer counseling for the girls’ emotional wounds, and solutions for their physical needs. For the first time in their lives, the girls are told that they are loved—fiercely loved—by the God of all creation. Many of the girls are provided with the means to attend school, as well as uniforms and school supplies. The ministries also offer literacy courses and vocational training to equip girls to independently earn a living and escape abuse. Thousands of teenage girls are being reached with the gospel in hundreds of Egyptian villages.
Native missionaries are requesting the prayers and support of fellow believers as they embark on this difficult task. Few Christians are willing to risk witnessing to a Muslim because of the possible consequences. It is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 nominal Christians are annually coerced or enticed to become Muslims in Egypt. Please remember these brave followers of Christ.