Children of a Christian couple lynched and burnt to death over alleged blasphemy have been receiving free education from a Pakistan-based Catholic charity in Lahore.
Sajjad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi were brutally killed on November 4 for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran in November last year by a mob over alleged blasphemy. They left behind four children, who were 8, 5, 4 and 18 months old at the time of the attack, have been living with their relatives in Lahore since then.
William Stark of International Christian Concern (ICC) in a statement said “Really often, we here in the West or as observers of persecution, we focus on the direct victims: the people accused of blasphemy and then killed.”
“Something we don’t talk about enough, I think, are secondary victims. Those are the children of victims,” he added.
It was after this brutal attack that a Pakistan-based Catholic charity in Lahore, Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) decided to take responsibility of providing the children with an education.
Out of the four siblings, the oldest ones, Suleiman and Sonia have already started taking classes as the CICF pays for the school fees, books, uniforms and transportation.
Hoping to see the children do better in life, CICF President Michelle Chaudhry is convinced that “education is one of the best defenses against exploitation and oppression.”
Chaudhry, whose father, Cecil Chaudhry was a Catholic Pakistani and decorated Air Force captain added, “We are overjoyed to see these children not only enjoying school but also doing so well.”
“Academic empowerment is certainly the way forward for any oppressed community in an intolerant society,” she said.
While noting that the government of Pakistan has promised to set up a trust for the children, Stark believed that the education being provided to these four orphans will change their lives for the better, hence breaking the cycle of working in brick kilns.
For Stark, this is a never-ending series of events for children in Pakistan, however, giving them this level of care and provision is atypical.
Further, knowing that a parent’s death or severe injury from an act of religiously motivated violence can completely alter a child’s future, ICC has been working to help educate children victimised by a church bombing in Peshawar in 2013.
A 15-year-old boy claimed he became “the man of the house” after the church attack left him injured and his father with an amputated leg.
“His future was completely changed by the attack,” Stark said. “That story is repeated over and over and over again” in Pakistan and around the world.
This article originally appeared on WORLD