Children are often witnesses to religious atrocities and threats that their families experience. They are most vulnerable to the trauma of persecution. We do not have significant understanding of what persecution looks like or feels like from the children’s perspective. Persecuted parents rarely speak about the impact of their situation or their decisions on their children.
In many countries children under the age of 13 form 30-40% of the total population. Children of Christian believers can face unique challenges because of their faith: some affect them directly (like being caught up in violence experienced by the Christian community) or specifically (like discrimination preventing them to receive education), and some affect them indirectly (loss of parents due to violence or arrest).
This year, Open Doors continues to put the spotlight on the Children of the Persecuted. Open Doors will stand to physically, spiritually, and emoionally strengthen children and their families experiencing persecution. Wherever and whenever possible, we will connect them with others so that they know they are not alone and not forgotten.
Here is another 'My Heart Bleeds-Secret Children' story:
ORPHANED CHILDREN FACE THEIR PAIN AND THE FUTURE
Son of martyred Colombian widow stays committed to forgive
After the murder of our widowed sister Alicia Castilla on January 7, 2013, Open Doors made it a priority to visit and speak personally with her son Hernan and his two little sisters, Jacqueline and Rosmey.
An opportunity came soon afterwards, when the children’s pastor brought them to a Bible-teaching meeting of their church denomination in Villavicencio.
Because 18-year-old Hernan had initially vowed two years ago to revenge his father’s martyrdom at the hands of ELN guerrillas, the OD team feared that he might be tempted again to find weapons and go after his mother’s murderers.
During an Open Doors seminar in July 2011 for children who had lost one or both of their parents, Hernan had decided six months after his father’s death to forgive the killers. Taking the step to be baptized, he began to assist the pastor in their church. Before his mother’s death, she had worried that anger and resentment might still overcome him, persuading him to renounce that decision.
Sharing her fears, the OD team wondered how Herman would be coping, after this second cruel blow.
"God is faithful, and I say this with tears: God removed all Hernan’s desire to carry out a vendetta," an OD worker said.
"This feeling disappeared," Hernan told them. "Never again have I had any desire to pick up a gun. With the death of my mother, I thought I was going to be worse than before. But today I cannot hate. I just want my life and the life of my family to be okay.
"I ask God to help me to be faithful," he said. "Many are praying, and I think that is why I have not reacted badly."
His greatest desires now are to help his sisters, he told Open Doors, and to take time for God to move in his heart, to understand why this happened.
Before his mother’s death, Hernan was learning to play the keyboard from his maternal grandfather, who taught him to read music. But after witnessing Alicia’s murder alongside Hernan and his sisters, his grandfather took the keyboard with him when he fled to another city. Now Hernan had nothing to practice music on. "I hope to have a keyboard soon," he said.
As the defacto head of his household, Hernan must make difficult decisions. After the funeral of his mother, he took his sisters and moved to another city, taking only a few pieces of clothing.
"Our house is old, and we do not know what to do, whether to sell or rent it," he said. "For the moment I have nothing clear."
For now, he plans to work and support his sisters while studying at the university. "I do not know how to do it," he admitted. "I have to look for alternatives, but I cannot leave my sisters alone. We will have to live with an aunt, but I must help with money for our expenses."
With a soft voice he added, "I cannot express all the pain I have, losing my mother. It cannot be put into words."
Hernan requested prayer for their older brother, 23, who had recently separated from his wife and plans to live in a nearby town. "He is the most affected by this situation," he told OD, noting that he no longer has his mother or father, nor now his wife. "He might react badly, and I do not want him to take revenge," Hernan said.
"Our whole conversation was hope-filled," the OD worker said. Ministry workers will visit the three siblings again, once they move into their new home, and stay connected with the pastors where they will now attend. In addition, a believing sister living near them who had worked for two years at the Open Doors Children’s Home will do regular follow-up with them, as God does His restoration work in their lives.
1. Please pray for wisdom and compassion for the OD team to convey Christ’s love to this suffering family continuing their lives without their father or mother.
2. Pray that the Lord will provide every resource, physical, emotional and spiritual, that Hernan, Jacqueine and Rosmey need to rebuild their lives.
3. Pray that all three will grow up to experience and champion peace and forgiveness in their context of terror and violence.
Photo: Alicia with her father and her children
Save for the Children of the Persecuted Coin Bank
With this cause Open Doors Philippines launched the Save for the Children of the Persecuted coin bank to encourage churches, schools, individuals, and even children to help raise funds for children affected by persecution. This was released in our 2011 International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted, where as of this writing, more than a hundred supporters, donors, churches and organizations have already adopted a coin bank with a collection of more than P10,000 already!
Contact us on how you can adopt your own coin bank to help save for the children of the persecuted!