In Muslim countries ruled by fundamentalists, laws dealing with prostitution and adultery are severe. A sex worker can be sentenced to 100 lashes—a severe beating. And if she is married, she can be stoned to death. To us in the United States, such barbarism is inconceivable. But be assured, it is a frightful reality in oppressive Muslim countries where GCM ministers.
With the potential of such cruel punishment looming, it might surprise you to know that prostitution is reportedly rampant in the Muslim world. According to UNAIDS, in Pakistan alone, there are an estimated 230,000 sex workers. And news outlets from the BBC to the Associated Press have noted an increasing presence of prostitutes on Iran’s city streets.
But why would any woman take such a terrible risk? Tragically, one big reason hinges on the fact that in these countries, women are considered little more than property. With few rights, they are under the complete authority and whim of their husbands, fathers, brothers, and other men in their families. Domestic abuse, including rape by relatives, is common. Women are also vulnerable to being cast out of the home, along with their children, left to fend for themselves. Divorced women and widows are stigmatized and sexually harassed, and even young girls, seeking to escape poverty and violence at home, often end up on the streets.
Jobs are scarce for such women and girls living in desperate conditions. They typically have a low level of education, and even if they land a legitimate job, it is poorly paid, or comes with the boss’s expectation of sexual favors.
Prostitution, then, becomes a matter of survival. And it is no wonder that given the soaring cost of living in such countries as Iran, where international sanctions have decimated the economy, prostitution is soaring as well. In some cases, families sliding deeper into poverty feel they have no option but to sell their children, especially their daughters, to the booming commercial sex trade in the Middle East.
Stripped of dignity and hope, Muslim women forced by circumstances beyond their control into prostitution have nowhere to turn. They feel abandoned by their own religion, even at the point of their greatest need and deepest despair.
GCM’s frontline Disciple Makers are passionate about reaching out to these women on the brink, and introducing them to the love, compassion, and provision of the God of the Bible. Often, the prostitutes they minister to are eager to accept Christ into their lives, and they go on to become Disciple Makers themselves. With testimonies of miraculous healing of spirit and body, they are powerful witnesses to others about His transforming power and grace.
When Fatimeh, for example, accepted Christ into her life, the first radical step of obedience in her new faith was to forgive her mother for having sold her into prostitution. Next, Fatimeh led not just her mother, but her entire family to discover God’s love and Jesus’ gift of salvation. Since then, she has coached 25 Bible study groups. Currently, she is discipling 15 new Christ followers and guiding four house-churches.
On behalf of each Muslim prostitute that God brings to Himself through the obedience of our Disciple Makers, thank you for your faithful prayers and generous support! Your partnership is an important foundation on which our ministry to women who truly are among those Christ called “the least of these” is built.
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