Reaching India’s widows with the Bible

Across India the lives of poor widows are being impacted through the Bible.

Through its Scripture gifts for widows project, the Bible Society of India (BSI) is reaching out to widows through one-day Bible engagement workshops to bring them hope and peace. Run through its 16 Auxiliaries and churches, the workshops convey to widows how much God loves and cares for them.

The plight of widows has long been at the heart of Christian mission in India. In the early 19th century, Christian missionaries, such as William Carey, campaigned to abolish the practice of sati or the burning of widows alive on their husband’s funeral pyre. Today, although widows do not face this cruel fate, their lot is still very harsh. “Widowhood is a state of social death, even among the higher castes,” says Dr V. Mohini Giri, an Indian activist who has dedicated her life to improving conditions for women in India.

In a country of 1.29 billion people, 80 percent of whom are Hindu, there are an estimated 40 million widows. That’s ten percent of all women
in India who are facing a lifetime of abuse, humiliation and poverty. But there is hope! Through its Bible engagement workshops, BSI is
changing the lives of widows in India bringing them both the gospel message and practical help.

“I thank God for BSI’s vision for caring for widows. Everybody knows about this. Widows are empowered with love and care through God’s Word,” says Mrs Sheela Isaac, a recently retired school Principal.

One of those whose life has been impacted is Sita…

“I am 24 years old. I became a widow at the age of 19. My husband died young due to drinking alcohol. I have two children. We are living in
a small room with a tin roof “My husband’s people do not like me because they believe that he died because of me. They do not want to see my children. My siblings believe that I am a very unlucky woman and my children are very unlucky children. They do not want to associate
with us.

“Thanks for giving this free copy of the Bible in my language – Kannada. The message of hope given at the workshop has created hope in me. I read the Bible daily for my peace and comfort. I pray, although I do not know how to pray but just talk to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“I am experiencing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in minute things. For example, I am working as a helper in three Christian homes, which helps me to provide nutritious food to the three of us.

“I gather my neighbours outside my house once a week and read Bible portions of comfort and solace to them. Somehow, Lord Jesus is answering our prayers. I praise Lord Jesus Christ.”

Like many widows in India, Sita was rejected by her family and community. The reasons for this run deeply through Indian culture, and include superstition, inheritance laws and the fact there is no welfare system in India. Without any means of earning a living, widows are forced to beg on the streets with some turning to prostitution for survival. Others make their way north to Vrindavan or the City of Widows, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where 20,000 widows live.

“It’s a lifelong sentence of humiliation and struggle. I have been in this temple for more than 60 years, and now I don’t remember anything about my home town. I wait for death every day so that I can get some relief,” says 82-year-old Rada Dasi.

Unfortunately, many girls are married at a young age. This, combined with high mortality rates among men from causes such as alcoholism, accidents, suicide and diseases, sees many women becoming widows at a young age.

Vijaya, a widow at 19

“I am 24 years old. Our parents were ordinary gardeners. They got me married at the age of 15. My husband was ten years older than me. He used to beat me up because I could not bear any children and, particularly, a son for him. My husband died of drinking alcohol. I was widowed at the age of 19.

“I am living alone in a very small house with a tin sheet roof. There is no toilet. I suffered a lot. My health was affected. I attended a Bible workshop for poor widows. I was given a copy of a Tamil Bible. Over three months the pastor taught me and other poor widows about the Lord Jesus Christ. I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. I started attending church.

“The pastor made arrangements for me to use the toilet of a Christian family. My health is better now. My legs used to be swollen before. Thank you Bible Society for giving poor widows like me free Bibles. God’s Word is our source of strength. God’s Word helps us to smile.”

In the workshops the widows also learn new skills such as pickle making, candle making and growing vegetables. They may be given new blankets, utensils and sarees, and they are encouraged to join a church. Through Bible engagement workshops, women like Sita and Vijaya
are finding hope, peace and comfort.

Will you help support this work by making a gift? Your gift would make such a difference bringing hope, dignity and the Bible to poor
widows in India.

INDIA QUICK FACTS

Current Population: 1,339,000,000
Population under 25 years old: 46%
Languages: Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%
Religion: Hindu 79.8%, Muslim 14.2%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.7%



An opportunity for you to help people in India

You can help more widows like Vijaya and Sita by making a donation so they can attend workshops and receive a Bible. It costs as little as $9 to fund someone to attend a workshop and receive the Scriptures. Your support will make a difference in the lives of Indian women. If you would like to make a donation, use the secure form below.