06/04/2019, 19.21
INDIA
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Madhya Pradesh: Ruben’s story, a child persecuted because he is a Christian (video)

The child's parents are both blind and the father is a Pentecostal pastor. Together with his family, he was tortured in 2016 for alleged forced conversions. A court later acquitted his father. His mother, hopes her “son grows up loving and serving God."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Ruben, a nine-year-old boy, was arrested, stripped, beaten and held in prison for three days when he was six only because he is a Christian.

Both of his parents are blind and his father is a Christian pastor in Madhya Pradesh. The child is their eyes and hands, helping them out at home, helping them walk and move around.

Despite his tender age, he had to suffer the blind violence of some Hindu radicals who abducted him along with his parents, for allegedly carrying out “forced conversions”.

Ruben's nightmare is not unique. To commemorate and protect minors who suffer violence in war and peace, the United Nations in 1982 instituted the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, marking the observance on 4 June, today.

Children are the most vulnerable group to conflicts and religious persecution. Ruben is the son of Rev Balu Saste and his wife Bhuri. The father is the pastor of the Pentecostal church in Badwani.

In January 2016 the child, his parents and the tiny Christian community of Dehar, a settlement with only 12 residents, were attacked by an angry mob that devastated their place of worship. After the assault, all the members of the community were taken to the police station and subjected to torture.

Last month, a court in Madhya Pradesh issued a historic ruling, throwing out the charge of forced proselytism, and acquitted the reverend.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. It is particularly shocking and ruthless when children become victims of violence because of their religion,” said Tehmina Arora, director of ADF India (Alliance Defending Freedom), the association that hired the lawyers who represented Ruben's parents.

"With the rise of persecution of Christians and other religious minorities all over the world, children inevitably become victims of this, as they are the most vulnerable members of society,” she explained.

The United Christian Forum and ADF India have documented more than 80 violent mob attacks against Christians – adults and children – in the first three months of 2019 in India, in 13 different states.

"We urge all states to protect the children and all members of religious minorities along with their freedom to practise their faith without fear of violence or persecution," the ADF India director said.

Bhuri, Ruben's mother, has only one dream: "God gave us a child. My hope is that he gets a good education and grows up loving and serving God."

(Video credit: ADF India)

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