India (GFA/MNN) — Seven-year-old Anmol (AH-NEE-MOHL) laughed and played; he sang songs and learned Bible stories at Sunday school—and later, he was cruelly tortured and killed for being a Christian.
Gospel for Asia’s Danny Punnose says Anmol’s family thought he went to a friend’s house after Sunday School, like he did in the past. But when the young boy didn’t come home, they began to worry.
“A couple of days later, they actually found his body,” Punnose states.
Harish, Anmol’s father, had filed a missing persons report with the local police Monday, November 18. That same evening, police received a call about a child’s body seen floating in a nearby pond. When Anmol’s parents heard the news, they rushed to the hospital, where the body was taken, and identified the dead child as their son.
“It was very clear he was brutally murdered,” reported field correspondent, Jayana. “[The murderer] had tortured the child in such an inhuman way. . .”
Evidence suggests Anmol’s neck was cut, toes were broken and hands were slashed and burned. His face was burned, as well, while hot fragments of coal or firewood were placed on Anmol’s stomach, burning his abdomen. His mouth was also found tied. Autopsy reports came back indicating Anmol’s final cause of death was drowning.
“We hear about persecution all the time; every week there [are] reports of some of our people in prison or beaten,” says Punnose. But, “you never hear about a little kid, who’s seven years old, being tortured and killed because their family’s Christian. This does not happen.”
Details identifying the murderer have not been released, pending further investigations. Anmol’s family has been a main target for persecution since 2003, when Harish made the decision to live for Jesus Christ after witnessing the miraculous healing of his older brother who had been sick for a long time.
Along with Harish, 45 other people came to know the saving grace of Jesus and were added to the church because of this healing. Later, Harish’s distant relatives also believed in the power of Christ through Harish’s witness.
“Because of so many people turning to Christ, this is the retaliation against this family,” Punnose explains.
The persecution of Christians in South Asia has increased nearly 400-percent in recent years, according to GFA. Punnose says this goes largely unnoticed because victims are from a Dalit background.
“Persecution against Dalits is on a huge up-rise,” he states. “Women, you know, often they are raped, simply because they are from the Dalit background. Men are killed…kids are kept in bonded labor.”
Anmol’s funeral was held Tuesday, November 19. Around 200 believers gathered for the ceremony, including the local GFA pastor, Ruben.
“The wail of the people and the parents was truly heartbreaking to see,” Jayana said. “It was truly a painful and intolerable incident.”
GFA is calling believers worldwide to pray for the consolation of Anmol’s parents, brother and sister, grieving extended family members; that the persecutors would come to know the love of Christ; and, the protection of all believers.