n America, Christians can read their Bibles, convert to another faith or attend church services without thinking twice.
In some nations, Christians do not have that freedom, according to the Voice of the Martyrs.
Todd Nettleton of the Voice of the Martyrs said:
n In the Far East, Christians can be arrested for holding a Bible study in the privacy of their home.
n In an African nation, Christians run the risk of dying or being critically injured by a bomb set off during church services.
n In the Middle East, a Muslim who converts to Christianity can be killed for denouncing the Islamic faith.
If you go
What: King of Glory Revivals women's conference
When: 8:30 a.m.to 4 p.m. May 11
Where: Holiday Inn Express, 3306 Pleasant Valley Blvd.
Cost: Free; includes lunch. An offering will be taken.
Stories of Christian women living in these areas and the persecutions they face will be told at a free women's conference to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 11 at the Holiday Inn Express, 3306 Pleasant Valley Blvd. It is sponsored by King of Glory Revivals and includes a free lunch at noon.
Five women representing the Voice of the Martyrs will tell how Christian women are physically violated, kidnapped or beaten for their faith and how women in America can help to relieve their suffering.
Voice of the Martyrs, based in Bartlesville, Okla., is an interdenominational Christian organization that is dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide.
Nettleton, director of media development for Voice of the Martyrs, said the average American does not realize that Christians in other parts of the world are suffering for their faith.
"We totally take it for granted that we can go to church on Sunday morning," he said.
Diane Kalajainen, Voice of the Martyrs area coordinator for Pennsylvania, said three presenters at the conference will focus on the Far East, Africa and the Middle East in their stories provided by the organization.
Two presenters will talk about ways to help women in the persecuted church.
Nettleton said in China, Protestant churches are regulated by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the government trains the pastors and churches must register with the state. Christians engaging in any gathering outside of a government-sanctioned church are subject to arrest.
In Nigeria, a group known as the Boko Haram has bombed churches, Nettleton said, and in parts of the Middle East, a Christian risks death for giving a Bible to a Muslim friend.
Although the suppression is directed at all Christians, Kalajainen said the conference will concentrate on women as a way to bring about an awareness for their plight. She said stories about martyrdom often are about pastors, who are usually men.
"This is an opportunity to just focus on the women," said Kalajainen of New Castle.
She said that women in other parts of the world have fewer rights than women in America and Europe.
"We have more prominent roles in everyday life, Kalajainen said. "In western cultures, we are out there."
She said another reason for an all-female conference is that women can talk more openly among themselves about abuses such as rape than they could in a church setting with small children present.
"We need to tell American women what their sisters across the world are facing," Kalajainen said.
Sandy Stiffler of Plum Borough and an area representative for Voice of the Martyrs, will focus on women living in the Far East.
Stiffler said she will share stories from such countries as China, North Korea and Indonesia.
"We share the stories we have and yet, they represent so many more," she said. [We speak] for all those who do not
have a voice."
Stiffler related the story of a woman in Pakistan who was picking berries and was arrested for saying: "Jesus is the one who came and died for us. He is the only God."
And while the punishment can be difficult for the one in prison, it also is hard on their families, Stiffler said.
Family members may not be able to find work or be denied ration cards, she said. In some countries, the children are not allowed to go to school.
"There is a lot of oppression," she said.
Ways to bring relief to persecuted Christians is also part of the conference.
Kalajainen said two of the five presenters will share ways Americans can reach out to others.
She said women who have a heart for the plight of the persecuted can send blankets or make action kits with items such as light jackets or sweaters, gloves, socks, sheets, towels, writing pads and pens. They also can provide Bibles written in the languages of the women or write translated letters to women in prison.
She said funds can be donated to meet needs, including medical care for people who have been tortured or physically harmed.
"But the big emphasis is on prayer," Kalajainen said.
Connie Khoury, a pastor and co-leader of King of Glory Revivals with her husband, Ron, said she understands freed prisoners have said that they knew people were praying for them, and they could feel the presence of God.
Khoury of Hollidaysburg said King of Glory Revivals has held a few women's conferences since November and is planning more.
She said each conference covers a different topic and the speakers are leaders in ministry or pastors. Women may attend the whole conference or any part of it.
Khoury said she met Kalajainen and Stiffler at a conference in Pittsburgh and wanted them to speak in Altoona because of her concern for the persecuted church.
Khoury said that Hebrews 13:3 says:
"Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body."
She said the Bible also talks about Christians loving one another and caring for one another's needs.