‘I was only 11’—beaten and left on the streets, Indian girl refuses to leave Jesus

August 23, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

“You are not our daughter anymore.”

They were the last words Saree* heard her father say to her as she stood in the street, holding the clothes her family shoved at her while slamming the door in her face.

This article was written by an unnamed Open Doors staff worker who visited and prayed with Saree.

Saree was only 11 years old when her parents kicked her out of their house and left her on the streets to survive. She is a symbol of a disturbing trend developing in certain regions of India over the years. Fifteen years ago, increasing numbers of pastors were attacked. In the last few years, other Christian men have also been beaten followed by assaults on Christian women.

It seems it’s the children’s turn now. Today, reports of children being beaten, raped and even killed are on the rise in India. They are often persecuted not for their own faith, but because of their parents’ faith. In 2018, one reporting agency on the ground documented 775 persecution incidents against Christians, representing more than 51 million people—including 12,858 children.

The church in India is at a tipping point

The decision to trust Jesus and abide in Him often costs believers like Saree everything. A gift of $24 could help train an Indian believer at a persecution preparedness seminar. Can you help now?

Help now

‘My God will heal you’

Saree has agreed to tell us her story. We meet her in a safe location, far away from her hometown. She starts by telling us how she met Jesus. As a young child, Saree was deaf.

“I was bullied at school for being deaf,” she says in a still voice. “They scolded me: ‘You are deaf!’ It made me so sad.”  Because of her disability, she had a hard time listening and studying at school. Her parents tried everything to heal her. “We went to the hospital, to Hindu temples and even to people who practiced witchcraft. Nothing helped,” she shares.

But one of Saree’s aunts had something different in mind and convinced Saree to go with her to church. “Your family members are not believers in the true God,” she told her niece. “But I am. Come with me. My God will heal you.”

Saree vividly remembers that day—the first time she ever set foot in a church: “The people were singing songs, and the preacher taught from the Word of God. I heard a little bit of sound, so I could understand a little of what was being said and sung. The songs made me happy.”

After the sermon, the pastor and a few other people prayed for the young girl. Saree is still visibly moved.

“First they called me to the front. I was a bit afraid and actually wanted to run. But I still went. While they were praying, I could hear sounds. Slowly, the sounds became louder and louder. I also felt something coming to me. It came closer and closer. It was the presence of God. Then the sounds became really clear. I could hear everything. I was incredibly happy.”

‘Your God is not our God’

Afterward, Saree’s aunt explained who Jesus is and what she needed to know about following Him. Then she told Saree’s mother about Jesus.

Saree looks down as she remembers what happened next.

Instead of seeing the miracle of her daughter’s healing and coming to faith in Him, Saree’s mother became irate.

“Your God is not our God,” she told Saree’s aunt. “We are not going to believe in your God. People in your church die too. So we won’t go to that church.”

Later, she warned Saree not to go to church and spelled out the consequences: “The villagers can cut us off,” she told her daughter. “We won’t be able to buy any food or drinks anymore, and nobody will talk to us.”

But Saree, having been healed at church, secretly went back to the place where she had found new life.

“My elder sister was the only one who knew,”  she says, “but my brother also found out. He caught me many times on a Sunday after I came back from church.”

She grows quiet but continues: “He and my father beat me and dragged me into the house. One time, I was carrying a Bible. He took it, threw it into the mud and beat me with a stick. Later I collected the Bible, wiped it clean and gave it to another believer. He kept it safe for me.

The situation continued to escalate. Pretty soon, she was enduring regular beatings. “Almost every time I went to church, my brother and father beat me,” she says.

Then came the day everything in her life changed.

“About three months ago, they were fed up with me. My brother and father yelled: ‘If you continue to go to church, we will punish you!’ They beat and kicked me badly. Then they gave me some clothes and pushed me out the door. My father said, ‘You are not our daughter anymore.’”

The choice that cost it all

“Whenever I feel depressed, I think about the fellowship we have on Sundays,” Saree says.

Saree had only one place to go, her Christian aunt’s. Two days later, her parents showed up at her aunt’s door. They accused her aunt of keeping their daughter and threatened to beat her, as well.

But they didn’t take Saree home. Recognizing her niece wasn’t safe in her home, Saree’s aunt gave her money to get to the home of another aunt, who is also a Christian. The 11-year-old girl walked six miles then took a bus another six miles. Soon after she arrived, Saree’s mother came a second time. This time, Saree went home to her family—only to be beaten again by her 22-year-old brother.

“Leave Jesus Christ!” he screamed, beating her with a stick and slapping her with his shoes.

But Saree stood firm. “I won’t leave Jesus,” she told her brother. She knew she had no other choice than to go back to her aunt’s. She has been living with her for the last few months.

Joy that leads to perseverance

Like all of our persecuted brothers and sisters, Saree isn’t without choices. She knows she could choose to turn from her faith and all of her problems would vanish. She could go back home, back to school and back to her friends. She has given up everything not to leave Jesus.

It is a brave decision at any age, but especially for an 11-year-old girl in India. Saree says candidly, “I want to leave Him. But I can’t. There’s something there …” she explains, struggling to find words.

This young girl has the unexplainable joy that James writes about to followers of Jesus in a time of intense persecution—and the perseverance that can only come from God (James 1: 1-8).

“I think about the fellowship we have on Sundays. Whenever I feel depressed, I think about fellowship. A believer sister told me, ‘Don’t leave Jesus Christ. We are here.’ She encouraged me from the Word of God. That strengthened me.”

The most painful part of Saree’s decision right now? Not being able to attend school. She also misses her family. It has been a year since her father disowned her and left her on the streets to pick up the pieces. She’s now 12 years old.

“Because of my persecution, I cannot go to school. I also miss my family a lot. I love my family, but they don’t accept me. I’ve seen them twice after they kicked me out. I went to see them, but my father doesn’t talk to me. My mother talks a little bit with me, but only my elder sister talks nicely. I didn’t see my brother.” She asks us to pray for her family’s salvation: “Pray especially for my brother.”

Her greatest desire these days is education, especially because she can hear now. “I want to go back to school and study,” she says. But a school transfer is extremely difficult; it requires her parents’ signatures.

During the lonely days, Saree finds encouragement from God’s promises in Scripture: “God has said that He will never leave nor forsake us,” she says, remembering how she met Jesus in the first place. “He is our healer.”

Open Doors works with our local ministry partners in India to provide relief aid after attacks, food and basic needs, Bibles, persecution training, legal assistance and much more to our persecuted family who, like Saree, are walking through the fire because of their choice to follow Jesus—no matter the cost. 

*representative name and images used to protect identity

 

One Church. One Family.

You can support believers like Saree in India today as they follow Jesus regardless of the risks and cost. Pray with your brothers and sisters in India and if you're able, give a gift to help strengthen the church.

Stand with persecuted believers
Share Your Comment

Related Stories