The fight for women in Central Asia

Zarina was a successful young martial artist, but she faced a very different kind of fight, after being kicked out of her family home for becoming a Christian.
Uncle, could I come to your house for some food? It's the second night I have been sleeping in a bus stop"

Zarina* was one of her country's most successful young martial artists, when she was faced with one of the hardest battles of her life. The tough Central Asian teenager, who had won international competitions, had been thrown out of her family home for becoming a Christian, and had nowhere to go. Through the support and investment of Baha, Innovista's National Director, she started to heal, and eventually went on to her own ministry with young people.

Rescue and recovery

Zarina was in considerable danger when she called Baha. She was not only a young girl on her own at night, but the bitterly cold winter had set in and there was snow all around. Fortunately for Zarina, Baha is a church leader with experience of supporting young people cast adrift by their families, and has personal experience of what it is like becoming a Christian as a teenager. His family even keeps a spare room in their house for anyone needing a safe space from which to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.

Finding peace

Zarina had never attended church, and it wasn't until she was invited to a summer camp that she first heard the Christian message. After asking many questions, she decided to follow Christ, which completely transformed her life. Zarina was filled with a great sense of personal peace, knowing that there is a powerful God who loves and cares for her.

Family fight

It was when Zarina's older brother discovered a Bible in her backpack that her problems began. After admitting she was reading it every day and had become a Christian, he beat her up. Although she was well capable of winning the fight, she allowed him to do it, because he was her older brother. He then contacted their parents, who were in Russia working, to let them know that their daughter was no longer a Muslim, and was therefore not part of the family and needed to be kicked out. He beat her again and forced her out onto the street, which is how she ended up sleeping rough in a bus stop.

Gender challenges

Attacks of this nature are common in a region where there are high levels of violence towards women.1 Sexual and physical abuse is not uncommon. That is why a number of churches provide refuge and counselling for vulnerable women.

Reunited in Russia

Although she stopped her competitive fighting, that was not the end of the story for Zarina. Baha and his wife mentored her both to grow spiritually and to gain practical cooking skills that she could use to find work. She started helping with ministry in their church, and went on to study at a Christian university in Russia. Feeling a strong desire to tell her family about God, she then decided to reach out to them. Although her brother and father continued to reject her, her mother became a Christian, and they now live together in Russia. Zarina works as a cook in their church, and is using her own experiences to help mentor and support the next generation of young people.

Mission multipliers

Zarina's story shows why Innovista's mission to support and develop Christian leaders is so important in the challenging context of Central Asia. The church remains under-resourced and under pressure, which is why it is so crucial to invest in people for the long term. God used one Christian leader to help lift up and empower another, so that more lives might be transformed in yet another challenging part of the world.

Support young leaders like Zarina in Central Asia

*: Her name has been changed for security reasons.

1. Gender Counts Central Asia PDF on


About Innovista

Supporting leaders where they're needed most.

Innovista identifies, equips and develops Christian leaders working in challenging locations. Every year, we train and mentor around 1,500 leaders in Britain, Ireland, Moldova, Ukraine, Central Asia and beyond. We help leaders transform people and communities through churches, ministries and enterprises. Inspired by Jesus, we equip leaders to build a better world.