This month, 20 widows whose husbands were killed in anti-Christian violence in Odisha State are receiving sewing machines and the training to use them. The project, funded by Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Families of Martyrs and Prisoners Fund, operates in Lokebadi, in the Kandhamal District of Odisha State. According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, the project is designed to enable the widows not only to achieve self-sufficiency but also to help other widows and daughters of Christian martyrs in the area who are similarly struggling.
“Violence against Christians in Odisha state exploded into a massacre ten years ago, but it continues routinely even today,” says Representative Foley. “The Christian minority still live in appalling conditions, enduring discrimination and extreme poverty without proper access to any permanent and consistent income.”
Representative Foley said women, especially widows, experience the greatest difficulties. “In most cases, jobs are only open to the men, whose wages are barely enough to provide one meal a day for their families. But for women whose husbands were martyred, job prospects are non-existent.”
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s sister mission in Australia worked with local believers on a test project in 2019 to provide sewing machines to selected widows, along with training on how to support themselves through sewing. 25 widows received the sewing machines and training. According to Representative Foley, the results exceeded expectations. “Not only were the women able to become self-sufficient,” says Representative Foley. “They also started tithing to their churches and training other Christian widows and young women how to support themselves through seamstress work.”
Kanchana was one of the women who was selected for the program. “From 2008 to 2018, I experienced much persecution,” says Kanchana. “Because I didn’t want to deny my faith, I was forced to move from place to place. I was unable to earn a steady income but I was also unable to receive any government aid or medical help. I couldn’t manage the needs of myself and my family.”
“Before I received the sewing machine, I would collect firewood in the jungle to sell at the markets. I would move the wood all day and I was not happy in this job.”
“When I came to Lokebadi in 2019, I applied for one of the sewing machines and when I received one I began to sew my own clothes. Soon, I brought three young ladies who didn’t have any training to teach them how to stitch and they began to help, and we produced clothes together to sell.”
“It gave me great joy to share this with them and to build their faith in the Lord,” says Kanchana. “I am so glad that even in difficult times, I found help and I am able to help other persecuted women, too. God has brought such happiness to all of us.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea agreed to fund sewing machines and training for an additional 20 widows in Lokebadi this month, through their Families of Martyrs and Prisoners Fund. “This donor-supported fund enables us to aid families of martyrs and Christian prisoners as soon as we receive a call from one of our Voice of the Martyrs sister missions telling us that a Christian in a place of persecution needs help.” The cost for the sewing machine and training for one widow is about 545,000 KRW, says Representative Foley.
Widows of Christian martyrs from the original sewing project in Odisha State
New Learners in the sewing class
Representative Foley says that its Families of Martyrs and Prisoners Fund is used to help Christians who choose to stay in the setting of persecution, rather than those who flee. “Often when Korean Christians and NGOs hear about persecuted Christians, their first thought is to help them escape to somewhere safe. But when a whole community of Christians is persecuted, like in Odisha State, India, or in our project last month in Burkina Faso, Africa, relocating a whole Christian community is not possible. And if some Christians flee or are relocated, those who remain often face greater persecution, since it makes attackers more bold. The regrettable outcome is that the witness to the gospel is silenced.”
“That is the tragedy we are seeing in places like Syria, Iraq, and parts of India,” says Representative Foley. “The Christian communities there are rapidly disappearing. Other NGOs often provide funds to help Christians relocate and build a new life as refugees in another country. But there is very little aid for Christians who feel called to stay and testify to Christ in a place of adversity. That is why we established our Families of Prisoners and Martyrs fund.”
Representative Foley says she believes that providing the sewing machines and training to the widows helps to stabilize and restore the Christian community that was decimated ten years ago. “Projects like this show the world that when Christians are attacked, they can do something other than flee or fight. They can respond in patient faith, knowing that God can give them a new life right where they are, with the support of other believers around the world. That is the powerful witness to the gospel which these Christian widows are making.”
Individuals interested in helping Voice of the Martyrs Korea meet the needs of other families of Christian martyrs and prisoners throughout the world can make a donation to VOMK’s Families of Martyrs/Families of Prisoners (FOM/FOP) fund at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or via electronic transfer to:
국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the name “FOM/FOP” on the donation.