In Pakistan, discrimination turns violent for a Catholic teenager
IN PAKISTAN, state-run schools are often a hostile environment for Christian students, who are subject to harassment in and outside the classroom. Haroon Irfan, 14, is a Catholic; he gave an account of his suffering to Aid to the Church in Need:
“Cricket is my favorite pastime; I love to play with my friends.
“But lately, I haven’t gone to school: because I’m a Christian, I’ve been harassed by Muslim boys in my class; they say that I’m dirty, and that I do not deserve to attend the school. They mock me by making the sign of the cross, or drawing it on the ground and stomping on it. But I cannot defend myself; I can only go to the principal or my teacher. My mother told me never to respond, that I’d be expelled if I did.
“Outside of school, I have been the target of repeated violence. One day, on my way home from the market, a group of Muslim boys followed me, threw me to the ground, and stabbed me. I was left bleeding, but thankfully, people in the area found me and brought me home. My parents then took me to the hospital, where I had a ruptured kidney removed. Another time, I was ambushed by three boys with a gun; they tried to kidnap me, but a woman intervened, and they ran.
“I love my country; I would have enlisted in the military if my kidney removal had not made me ineligible for service. That being said, it is dangerous for me in Pakistan. I have never felt respected, and I have never been able to worship freely. My textbook says that Jesus Christ is not the son of God, and that Christians are idolaters: I have no hope for peace, or religious tolerance.
“Despite all this, I believe that the Lord has kept me safe. When I was in the hospital, I saw Jesus in a dream; I know that he is walking with me, and though I feel pain, I am completely relaxed when I pray. Even in my darkest moments, he is my light. I will never be forsaken by him. And I am grateful for the support of my family, too, especially my mom: they have always stood by me, and always will.
“I am not sure what Western countries can do to end this crisis, but I ask our sisters and brothers in the West to help persecuted Christians around the world. We want to live in accordance with the Bible—and we want to do so safely.”