“Leave Jesus Christ!” he screamed, beating her with a stick and slapping her with his shoes.” But Saree refused, stating. “I won’t leave Jesus.”
Saree was only 11 years old when her Hindu family beat her and kicked her out of their house and left her on the streets to survive after she converted to Christianity — yet she refused to deny Jesus Christ. She is a symbol of a disturbing trend developing in certain regions of India over the years.
Saree, a young girl living in India, recently shared her story with persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, beginning with her early childhood struggles with deafness.
“I was bullied at school for being deaf,” she said. “They scolded me: ‘You are deaf!’ It made me so sad. We went to the hospital, to Hindu temples and even to people who practiced witchcraft. Nothing helped.”
One of Saree’s aunts, a devout Christian, convinced the then-11-year-old 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 recalled 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. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.
“First they called me to the front,” Saree said. “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.”
Saree’s aunt told the young girl about Jesus — a move that angered her family.
“Your God is not our God,” Saree’s mother told her 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, warning, “the villagers can cut us off. We won’t be able to buy any food or drinks anymore, and nobody will talk to us.”
Excited by her newfound faith, Saree continued to attend the church without telling her family. However, it wasn’t long before her brother discovered her secret.
“He and my father beat me and dragged me into the house,” Saree said. “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.
“Almost every time I went to church, my brother and father beat me,” she continued. “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.’”
Desperate, Saree fled to a relative’s house, walking six miles in search of safety. However, her mother found the young girl and brought her home, where she was once again beaten by her 22-year-old brother.
“Leave Jesus Christ!” he screamed, beating her with a stick and slapping her with his shoes.
But Saree refused, stating. “I won’t leave Jesus.” Fearing for her life, she fled to her aunt’s, where she has been living with her for the last few months.
Now 12 years old, Saree misses her family and attending school, especially now that she can hear: “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,” she said. “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.”
Still, she told Open Doors that she finds encouragement from God’s promises in Scripture: “God has said that He will never leave nor forsake us,” she said. “He is our healer.”
“I think about the fellowship we have on Sundays. Whenever I feel depressed, I think about fellowship,” she added. “A believer sister told me, ‘Don’t leave Jesus Christ. We are here.’ She encouraged me from the Word of God. That strengthened me.”
India ranks as the 10th-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List. The organization notes that conversion to another faith can result in harsh punishments, including arrest, an attack, or even death.
Additionally, reports of children being beaten, raped and even killed are on the “rise in India,” says Open Doors, adding: “They are often persecuted not for their own faith, but because of their parents’ faith.