Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 28 September 2011
Three recent outrageous incidents reveal how anti-Christian persecution is inflicting acute suffering on children and young people in various parts of the world.
Children are often helpless victims of anti-Christian hostility
First, a Christian schoolgirl has been expelled and her family evicted from their home after an innocent spelling mistake in an exam led to an absurd accusation of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Faryal Bhatti, an eighth-grade pupil (aged 12/13) in Havelian, was scolded and beaten by her teacher on Thursday (22 September) when she accidentally misplaced a single dot in a word while answering a question on a poem about Muhammad; her error turned the word naat, which refers to praise of Muhammad, to laanat, which means “curse”.
As news of the incident spread, enraged Muslims rallied in the streets, demanding that Faryal be expelled from the area and a criminal case be registered against the youngster. Defiling the name of Muhammad carries a mandatory death penalty under Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws”. Muslim leaders also called, in their Friday sermons, for action to be taken against Faryal and her family.
Despite her apologetic explanation that the misspelling was an error with no malicious intent, Faryal was expelled from her school, and her mother, a nurse, was transferred to another hospital around 40 miles away. The family have also been forced to leave their home. They have received threatening text messages, raising fears of Muslim reprisals among other Christian families in the area.
A number of Muslim leaders have, however, come out in defence of the youngster, saying that she should be pardoned because her actions were unintentional.
Secondly, a child has been taken hostage by security forces in Iran in a bid to coerce the Christian parents to make a statement against believers in prison. The couple had adopted the child after years of waiting for a legal adoption. The security agents threatened them, saying:
If you want your child back you must file a complaint against your fellow Christians in prison.
The emotional stress of the ordeal has made the Christian woman so unwell that she had to be taken to hospital.
Thirdly, a team of eight young Brethren men who were preaching the Gospel on the streets in Andhra Pradesh, India, were arrested this week. Police failed to disperse a large and hostile crowd that had gathered, and then took the Christians into protective custody. But the mob then pressured the police to take action against the young men, accusing them of engaging in “religious conversion”. They remain in custody.