As you may remember, in January we reported about the discovery of children in Bangladesh who were trafficked from their homes and sold to Islamic training centers (madrassas) for jihad training. At the time ICC was caring for the first 13 children rescued from this plight. Since that report, another 113 children have been rescued and are now safely in the care of ICC and our partners.
“Sister, there was a rescue,” ICC’s partner Maria told me. “We have found more Christian children rescued from the madrassas. It’s even been on the news all day. Can you help?”
I take a deep breath, and quickly do the math in my head. Five more. That brings the total to 126. Thank you, Jesus.
I replied quickly to Maria and told her to bring them to safety; we would care for the suffering Christian children.
THE INJUSTICE OF CHILD PERSECUTION
ICC partners uncovered a disturbing trend of child trafficking and persecution last spring; suffering Christian children from poor communities continue to be targeted and are disappearing into madrassas. To date, a little more than one-third of reportedly missing children have been found and are being cared for by ICC.
As reports and pictures flood in from our partners, tears pour from my eyes. They are tears of joy for their rescue, and sorrow for their horrific experience. The faces of the recently rescued children remind me of the ones I saw with the original 13 last year: piercing eyes, simultaneously empty and filled with sadness, staring at me from the computer screen.
I close my eyes and try to remember that, like those rescued last year, their sadness will not last forever. Christ is the hope.
THE NEWEST TARGET: GIRLS
Ranging in age from 4 to 16, many of these suffering Christian children report working “as slaves” during the day in the homes of Muslim families, while being forced to read the Quran, pray five times a day, and learn Arabic in the evenings. “They were only given one meal a day,” said an ICC contact. “They were very hungry. This is not enough food. All the girls were also forced to wear Muslim style veils all day.”
As we continue to work on this case, there seems to be a trend of younger girls being targeted. As opposed to the first round of rescues, the majority of which were boys, nearly half of those rescued this time were girls. Multiple girls reported that their families were told that not only would the girls receive a quality education in the big city, but that they would receive training to be beauticians—guaranteeing each girl a career and a future. It was an empty promise that would prove to be too good to be true.
“The girls were promised to work in a beautician’s parlor,” an ICC partner said of the suffering Christians. “But when they arrived to the city, so far from their homes, this did not happen. Instead, they were sent to local hotels to work in the sex trade.”
HOW THEY WERE RESCUED
The rescue of these children was made possible by one man, Sumon. A bus ticket seller, Sumon noticed a man named Norbert Tripura frequently travelled to Dhaka with groups of children. When asked what he was doing, Norbert replied that he was taking the children to a Christian missionary school “where they can eat and live in comfort with a good education.” A Christian himself, Sumon wanted his daughter to have the opportunity for a quality Christian education. Sumon asked Norbert to take her to the Christian missionary school, and became suspicious when he was refused. “Doubt was created in my mind when Norbert continued to avoid me,” he told ICC.
Sumon began to investigate the matter and soon discovered that countless families had sent their children with men, including Norbert, who were later discovered to be traffickers. With the help of an ICC ministry partner, he arranged for the rescue of the first 13 children in July 2012. Sumon and his team immediately began searching for the rest of the missing children, who were rescued by Sumon’s team and through police raids on madrassas in the city. All of the children share stories of similar experiences, including being forcibly converted to Islam.
Sumon and our partner estimate that there are still over 130 children missing. “We think they [were] also sold to madrassas and we are searching for them,” he said. “It is my dream that all the children will be rescued and receive a higher education so that they can stand on their own two feet.”
As of now, the rescued children are in a secure location and beginning to feel safe. When our representative visited them, he brought gifts on behalf of ICC donors and shared the love of Jesus with the children. “The children did a welcoming dance for us and said thank you many times,” he said. “They honored us with their song, and I was moved by their experience of persecution. I will do anything for these children,” he said.
Though their eyes are sad right now, a hint of hope is visible. As each day passes they believe more and more that they are safe, enabling them to sleep, study and play. A day will come when they will smile again, just like the first 13 children who were rescued last year do now. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” Psalm 30:5 (NIV).
BY COREY BAILEY