A 7-year old boy has been tortured and murdered because of his Christian faith in northern India, Gospel for Asia reports.
The body of the boy, named only as Anmol, was found in a pond last week with shocking injuries that reveal he was subjected to torture before being brutally murdered.
He went missing on November 17 after attending Sunday school at a Believers Church near his home. His parents identified a body pulled out of a pond as that of their young son the next day.
Anmol's family has been a target for persecution since 2003, when his father, Harish, became a Christian after witnessing the miraculous healing of his older brother.
Many other family members came to faith, and Harish was known to be "one of the strong believers" of the local church. His family has received multiple threats of violence and even death as a result of their beliefs.
The 7-year-old, whose mouth was found tied shut, had his neck cut, his toes broken and his hands and face slashed and burned. Hot fragments of coal or firewood were also placed on his stomach, burning his abdomen. Autopsy reports indicate that his final cause of death, however, was drowning.
An official stated: "It is very clear he was brutally murdered...[he was] tortured in such an inhuman way."
K.P. Yohannan, founder and international director of Gospel for Asia (GFA), said: "It is unthinkable that this would happen to a little child like this.
"Persecution against Christians is an ongoing matter that we see happening every week. In fact, it has increased by 400% in the last several years, but the killing of a little child like this is unheard of. In this horrible tragedy, we find strength and hope in Jesus."
Members of the Gospel for Asia team are with the family, providing comfort and support in their time of mourning.
Around 200 believers gathered for the young boy's funeral on 19 November, including a local GFA supported pastor.
"The wail of the people and the parents was truly heartbreaking to see," one reporter commented.
"It was truly a painful and intolerable incident."
Anmol's murder comes in the wake of warnings that persecution and violence against Christians is on the rise in India, where many states have discriminatory laws that place restrictions on Churches and threaten Christian converts with jail sentences of up to three years.
Gospel for Asia is calling for prayer for Anmol's family, that his persecutors would come to know the love of Christ, and for the protection of all believers in India.