BY COREY BAILEY
Regional Manager for Asia, Corey Bailey, shares an experience of hearing Christian persecution stories first hand during a recent trip to Bangladesh.
Christian persecution stories: It happens to children too
I walked into a small, hot room packed with little boys and their fathers. All eyes shifted to me expectantly as a hush fell over the room. I was told that a few children and one or two of their fathers would be traveling a long distance to meet with me to see if they were eligible for help from ICC. They heard we helped rescue children who were trafficked to madrassas (Islamic training centers) and they were hopeful we would help their children too. When I walked into the room, however, there were over 28 people, when we had been expecting 10-14! As we began to hear the Christian persecution stories of the children it was clear that not everyone fit our grid. Some had knowingly sent their children to the madrassa because they were desperate for an education, others hadn’t been to a madrassa at all, they just wanted us to pay for their children to go to school. As we narrowed down which children fit the ICC grid I was struck by two stories in particular:
Christian persecution stories: Meet Nonto and Shontin
The first is that of Nonto*, who is about 14 years old. One day, Nonto’s uncle came to the family and told them that he had an opportunity for Nonto to go to school. The family was ecstatic and sent him off, confident that his future was going to be better than what little they could offer. What the family did not know was that their Christian relative had converted to Islam and was planning to sell his nephew to a madrassa. What happened next was a nightmare for Nonto. For months, instead of learning “reading, writing and arithmetic,” he was forced to study the Quran, learn Arabic and pray to Allah five times a day. One day he had enough and refused to pray saying, “I am a Christian and not a Muslim.” The response? Nonto was beaten so badly that they cracked his skull and he lost hearing in his ear. After the beating Nonto and a few other Christian boys made a daring escape to freedom and came to us for further help.
Many of the boys in this group were trafficked by the same man, who they all thought was a Christian. Shontin’s* family believed the man when he told them he would take Shontin to a Baptist Mission School. A young boy, about eleven years old, Shontin spent nearly a year trapped in a madrassa instead. I was moved to tears as I watched his father explain his agony upon realizing his son had been sent to an Islamic training center instead of a Christian school. Tears streamed down his face and his hands quivered as he told us how he began a long search merely trying to find his son. In the madrassa, one of the first things they do is give the children new, Muslim names. When someone calls or comes looking asking for the child by their birth name, they are told that no one of that name is there. Not only does it help keep a child from being discovered, but it also is a brainwashing tool to remove the child’s identity and replace it with a new one.
Shontin experienced many of the same things the other boys did: beatings, malnutrition, brainwashing and hours on end of Islamic teachings. Finally, Shontin’s father was able to track him down. He traveled to the madrassa and pulled his son out to freedom, but needed ICC’s help to keep his son safe.
Christian persecution stories: It can end in hope!
While their stories were heartbreaking, I was glad that ICC and our partners were going to help these families. These are not just Christian persecution stories; these are living breathing human beings loved by the Father. They will go from abuse and persecution, to safety and education because believers halfway across the world chose to care. They will have a hope and a future. God made a way for them where there didn’t seem to be one.
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 NIV