Imagine being targeted simply because you're wearing a cross pendant around your neck.
It sounds outlandish to people living in a country that guarantees religious freedom, but the reality is that right is not universal. And reports coming from Egypt show the number of cases involving violations of religious freedom is on the rise.
That's true for one group in particular: Egypt's Coptic Christians and, more specifically, women affiliated with the group.
Click to watch John Jessup's story
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who co-chairs the Helsinki Commission, convened a hearing to investigate the plight of Coptic Christian women.
The hearing focused a new report commissioned by Christian Solidarity International. It documents several cases of women being kidnapped, abused, and forced to marry and convert to Islam.
The report, called "Tell My Mother I Miss Her," identified eight key findings:
- The numbers of disappearances and abductions are increasing
- Fewer girls are returning to their families
- Social media is increasingly used to communicate a victim's status
- Minor and mothers of young children are increasingly targeted
- Abductions continue to be organized and planned
- Captors target women and girls when they are unprotected and vulnerable
- Captors sever ties between victims and their families
- Captors make use of measures involving force, fraud and coercion
Read the full report
Copts have suffered in the wake of last year's Arab Spring that led to the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The report discusses the failure of the Coptic Church by the state as it transitions into a democratic state:
"The military was their last hope in protecting them from lawless forces in society that were religiously motivated to eradicate them ... Now they know they have no protection."
Smith told CBN News he plans to offer an amendment to next year's foreign operations appropriations bill that would block aid to Egypt unless it addresses this issue.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith is helping to put a human face to the often invisible crime of human trafficking - something many have dubbed modern day slavery. It's a problem plaguing countries across the globe, including the United States.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, the actress introduced Minh, Monica, and Jamm - "survivor soldiers" who'd been victims of sex trafficking.
Read below the Pinkett Smith's testimony on the young women's heart-rending stories of abuse - and transformation:
"Minh was sexually abused by her father beginning at the age of three. At age 11, her father began selling her to other men. At 14, Minh's mother felt she wasn't receiving her fair share of the money that Minh was generating, so she began selling her herself. All of this torture and abuse was taking place while Minh was attending public school, received straight A's and played competitive soccer. It happened right underneath everyone's noses," Smith said.
Now here we have Monica, who ran away from an abusive home and was on the streets at the age of 15, where she was kidnapped by seven men. They all beat her, raped her and eventually turned her over to another man, who forced her to sell her body for his financial gain. Monica was constantly in and out of the juvenile justice system 16 times between the ages of 15 and 17.
Jamm was an HIV-negative child born to parents diagnosed with AIDS, who died by the time she was 10. Jamm was forced to live with her mother's sister, a woman who is a Unified District school teacher in Los Angeles public school system.
There she experienced further sexual abuse from her aunt, her aunt's husband, and her cousins. For four years, her aunt sold her to over 100 pedophiles and child rapists. Trying to escape, Jamm stole her aunt's cell phone to try and call for help. Her aunt called the police to try and report her phone stolen, and the age of 15, Jamm was arrested."
Now today through hard work, perseverance and support of social programs, Minh is a graduate student at UC Berkeley, getting her MSW and Ph.D in social welfare. The recipient of a prestigious fellowship, Minh is studying the long-term impact of child abuse, trauma, recovery and studying the health and well-being of survivors of human trafficking.
Monica was introduced to a wonderful program that serves commercially, sexually exploited children called MISSSEY. She progressed on to become a part-time MISSSEY staff member and began working part-time for Youth Radio. During her time at Youth Radio, Monica was one of two key reporters that produced 'Trafficked,' which was later awarded the Peabody Award, Gracie Award, and the Edward R. Murrow Award. Currently, Monica is a full-time staff member at MISSSEY and a part-time student.