Barnabas Edit: Remember persecuted Christian children – Action Week

November 7, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead, Persecution

 

Mariam Ashraf Messeiha (8) was shot dead in a church attack in Egypt

Mariam Ashraf Messeiha (8) was shot dead in a church attack in Egypt

November 01, 2013: Persecutors of Christians show no mercy towards children. In fact Christian youngsters are often the most vulnerable when their communities come under attack or suffer discrimination.

Barnabas is this week holding our Suffering Church Action Week, with the theme “Children of Courage”, to highlight how Christian children are affected by persecution and urge our supporters to take action on their behalf.

Part of the week is our worldwide Day of Prayer today, focussing on the needs of children. You can follow the event on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE

Unable to defend themselves or escape, Christian children are easy targets for violence.

A couple of weeks ago, two young Christian girls were tragically gunned down in a targeted shooting at a church in Egypt.

Mariam Ashraf Messeiha (8) and her cousin Mariam Nabil Fahmy (12) were there for what should have been a celebration, the wedding of a family member. But the masked gunmen on a motorbike, who showered the guests with bullets as they gathered outside the church, turned the scene into a nightmare. Two adults were also killed, and other children were among the wounded.

 

These five siblings lost their parents in a church bombing in Pakistan

These five siblings lost their parents in a church bombing in Pakistan

The Egyptian Christian community has been going through one of the worst periods of targeted violence in its long history of suffering. The two young Mariams are sadly not the only youngsters to have lost their lives in the violence.

In August, ten-year-old Jessi Boulus, an only child, was shot dead as she was walking home from her Bible study class, leaving her parents devastated. Her father Boulus told the BBC:

Jessi was everything to us. Her killers didn’t know that Jessi was my life – my future. They killed our future…

Egyptian Christian children have suffered the loss of the places where they felt most secure – their homes, schools and churches – in a campaign of targeted violence by supporters of Mohammed Morsi, who have scapegoated the Christian community for his ouster earlier this year.

Christian children are understandably fearful in this hostile environment. A Barnabas Fund contact from Egypt told us that some are now afraid to play outside in case they are kidnapped.

The Christian community in Pakistan recently suffered its worst-ever attack: a suicide bombing at All Saints Church in Peshawar that has claimed over 100 lives.

Many children were among the dead, wounded and bereaved. Teenager Shalom Nazir lost his mum, dad and sister in the attack, leaving him with no immediate family. Naiher (8) was killed along with her brother, Eshan (11), and their grandmother.

The five children of Nazir Masih and his wife Rehana, who were both killed in the blast, have been left to fend for themselves. Nitasha (16), Senaha (15), Sheroaiz (13), Sahab (11) and Simran (8) (pictured) are facing their loss with great courage and faith. Our partners in Pakistan who have been visiting and supporting those affected by the attack said:

The children were sad and their eyes full of tears but the elder daughter said bravely that we are happy that our parents died in the church and they are martyrs.

CAUGHT IN CONFLICT

War is devastating for people of all ages, but perhaps children feel its effects most acutely. Nowhere is this more apparent at the moment than in Syria, where Christian children are especially vulnerable as Islamist rebels target the minority community.

Many have suffered the loss of one or both parents. Among them are the children of a church leader who was shot dead when two archbishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boutros Yazigi, were abducted in April; he was driving the vehicle they were travelling in at the time and was killed in cold blood.

Children are becoming traumatised by the horrors to which they have been exposed. Many have been displaced from their homes, and some have not been able to go to school since the conflict began. Christian girls are particularly vulnerable to kidnap and sexual abuse.

One of our partners said:

Our children are becoming malnourished, growing up illiterate, and being disabled or even martyred. The iniquity and injustice created by war affects our children, who are losing their innocence and loving spirit.

SUFFERING AT SCHOOL

Discrimination keeps countless Christian families trapped in poverty, and they cannot therefore afford to educate their children; the little ones sometimes have to go out to work to support the family.

Those who attend government schools in Muslim-majority contexts are often disadvantaged in their exams; some are even deliberately failed.

In Pakistan, Christian children are taught from textbooks that contain discriminatory and inflammatory material about Christianity. One said that the killing of Christians was a “goal to be sought”.

Christian children are often forced to study the Quran and face pressure to convert to Islam.

Afirdo Pakpahan, a nine-year-old Christian boy, was too afraid to return to his school in West Java, Indonesia, in September after being pressured to learn the Quran and warned by his teacher that he would go to hell if he did not become a Muslim.

The children of a persecuted Christian family in Uzbekistan have also been threatened; they were forbidden from speaking at school about the Bible or Jesus and warned that if they did so, they would be taken away from their parents and would have to leave the country within 24 hours.

This is incredible pressure for these young brothers and sisters to bear.

Children’s naïveté about the potential danger they face because of their faith puts them at increased risk. In Sudan, apostasy (leaving Islam) is punishable by death, making converts extremely vulnerable. But the children of “Hassen” and “Ashia”, converts from Islam to Christianity, have been unashamed to make their family’s faith known at school; when other children asked if they are Christian or Muslim, they always replied, “We are Christians”.

This has caused their parents to decide that it is no longer safe for them to stay in Sudan; the family has been threatened by Muslims, including the government, to try to make them change their faith to Islam.

– dr patrick sookhdeo

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