Haroon Irfan - © ACN

In Pakistan, Discrimination Turns Violent for a Catholic Teenager

‘But lately, I haven’t gone to school: because I’m a Christian’

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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.”
 Tabassum Yousaf writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted in more than 140 countries.  www.churchinneed.org (USA);   www.acnuk.org (UK);  www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)

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Tabassum Yousaf

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