(AsiaNews) - In Bangladesh, Christian children from Tripuri tribes have been
taken away from their villages and forcibly converted to Islam. Local Catholic
sources, who asked their names be withheld, told AsiaNews that almost 300 children have been taken to madrassas
is the same. So-called intermediaries, who are also ethnic Tripuri, visit poverty-stricken
communities where they convince families to send their children to a mission hostel,
charging between 6,000 and 15,000 taka (US$ 500 to 1,200) for school and board.
After pocketing the money, the intermediaries sell the children to Islamic schools
elsewhere in the country.
case involved 11 children, ten boys and a girl, from Thanchi, Ruma and Lama in
the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Their
story has a happy ending though. After six months of threats and violence, the
children were able to escape thanks Hotline Human Rights Trust, a Dhaka-based civil
rights organisation that defends minorities run by a Catholic woman, Rosaline
one of the many tribal groups found in Bangladesh. Most are Christian, both
Catholic and Protestants, especially in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, in south-eastern Bangladesh.
are engaged in a campaign against Christian missionaries whom they accuse of
proselytising and forcibly converting others in order to create a Christian
majority in the area so that it can be annexed to India.
latest case, the first eight boys were taken in January and February and
brought to the Darul Huda Islami
School in Mia Para village (Gazipur). The girl was placed in a madrassa
(whose name she could not tell) in Muhammadpur, Dhaka. The other two boys were brought to
another Darul Huda Islami in Maddha
Badda (Gulshan, Dhaka).
Their days included Arabic lessons (8-12 AM), Qur'an reading
(Nurani Shikkha, 2-5 PM) and five daily prayers.
respective madrassas, the children found other tribal Christians, many even
younger themselves. They also saw acts of physical violence when children
missed prayers or refused to take part in a lesson. In fact, after she was rescued,
the girl showed scars to the hand, where she was struck with a cane.
In June, the
desire to escape was kindled when imams announced that the boys would be
circumcised, and that if they were ready to give their lives for Islam, they
would be compensated with beheshta or
heaven since no other religion could lead them there.
the first eight boys asked a Hindu family that lived near the school for help. They
told their stories, asking them to contact their parents. When the latter found
out what had happened to their children, they contacted the Hotline Trust to
save them. Four boys escaped on 4 July; the other four on 13 July.
other two (somewhat older) boys found out about their escape, they too fled and
contacted the Hotline Trust on their own.
rescue was a bit more complicated. She was saved only after another girl
escaped and told people in her village what had happened. The girl's parents then
contacted the madrassa huju or
teacher asking him to let her go. The latter said the father had to come and
At the school, the teacher tried to provoke the father, denigrating the
Bible and accusing Christians of adultery and immorality. The father put up
with the insults and eventually took his daughter home on 13 July.