The Journey of a Little Girl Rescued from an Islamic Training CenterBy Corey Bailey
Shantona looked at me with a deep sadness in her eyes. Only 10 years old, she should be full of life and joy, but instead she looked down to the ground as tears threatened to fall.
In February 2012, Shantona’s father sent her off to, what he thought was, a Christian Hostel to go to school. A poor family in the hills, education is the only hope of a future, so this opportunity seemed like an answer to prayer.
But Shantona’s father was lied to. Dreams of a bright future became a horrible nightmare.
Once Shantona was taken from her father’s house, she was sold to an Islamic training center, known as a madrassas, where she was imprisoned and forced to learn Arabic, study the Quran and pray to Allah five times a day. Shantona quickly realized that something was wrong. They were not learning the usual subjects you study in school, and as a Christian she did not want to be forced to practice Islam. So Shantona refused to pray or learn Arabic. As a result, however she was disciplined. Not only was food withheld from her, but her hands, now scarred from numerous beatings by a cane, also bear witness to punishment for refusing to comply.
Shantona’s father only learned of her whereabouts months later when another girl, imprisoned at the same madrassa, escaped and told of her own harrowing experience. When Shantona’s father realized had been tricked and his daughter was being harmed, he frantically began searching for her. He called on an ICC ministry partner to help find his daughter. Months later, when Shantona was finally located, he personally went to pick her up. When the leader of the madrassa realized he intended to take his daughter away, he began verbally berating them. Shantona’s father stood strong as he the leader yelled, “The Bible of the Christians is full of lies and evil things and only Islam and [the] Quran can guide people to right path to heaven!” The teacher continued to criticize Christianity, but finally let Shantona and her father leave.
Since her rescue, Shantona’s father was scared the Imam or other leaders would search for her at home, since they knew where she lived. ICC’s partner intervened and placed Shantona in a Christian hostel where she could live and receive a quality education. They are attempting to help her work through the persecution and trauma she experienced; however, Bangladesh lacks counselors to help with these types of things.
While listening to her story, it was clear to me that Shantona, from a different tribe than the other girls at the hostel, feels alone and sad. I In fact, the only time she smiled was during the children’s sermon I gave where I said, “Jesus is our friend and never leaves us alone. We can tell Him when we feel happy or when we feel sad. Even if we feel alone, we can tell Him and He will remind us that we are never alone because He is always with us. He is a good friend who loves us and wants to know how we feel.” This was the only time I saw Shantona smile; her lips could not help themselves as she heard about a Savior who comforts the lonely. She smiled the entire time, with a tiny flicker of hope in her eyes.