Christian female minorities found vulnerable to sexual trafficking

Timothy Fowler

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Saturday, May 11 2013

The Barnabas Fund intends to replace this tin shed used as a place of worship with a brick building and boundary wall for greater security. Bangladeshi Christians are a poor and oppressed minority people. Their condition makes girls susceptible to being lured to sexual slavery.Photo: Barnabas Fund

Females are increasingly the most vulnerable targets in the growing persecution of Christians around the world, and are particularly being trafficked for sex, say rights groups.

While sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity all over the world, Christian females are particularly singled out because of their religious and minority status in some countries.

For example, in the last nine months , up to 140 children, about half of them girls, were rescued from Islamic training centers (madrassas) in Bangladesh, says International Christian Concern (ICC).

The children were targeted for their Christian faith, said the report by ICC, a watchdog group dedicated to assisting victims of persecution.

The girls were forced into sexual slavery and forced labor.

They also were also forcibly converted to Islam and made to wear veils at all times.

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The girls involved were promised an education at a beauty school in the capital city of Dhaka as an inducement to make the grueling trip from their villages by foot. Once they arrived, they were sent to the hotels to work in the sex trade.

The ICC said that the Christian Tripura people, who live in poverty, were particularly vulnerable to traffickers.

In Bangladesh where 90 percent of the population are Muslims, it is not easy for Christians to find jobs and a good education, so the lures provided by the traffickers are attractive says the ICC.

Egypt is another country where Muslims are under fire for abducting and forcing marriage upon Coptic Christian females.

A 2009 study done by researchers from George Washington University in Washington D.C. indicated that the force and coercion involved in Egyptian cases met the definition of human trafficking used by the United Nations.

The United Nations calls human trafficking, a "crime against humanity," says Dr. John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International in a preface to the report.

The report was commissioned by his organization and the Coptic Foundation for Human Rights because the groups believed that international human rights groups were ignoring the substantial evidence of the abuse of Christian women in Egypt.

The authors, Michele Clark and Nadia Ghlay, noted that Coptic Christians live as a marginalized and disadvantaged religious minority amongst the Muslim majority. Copts make up from 8 to 12 percent of the 80 million people living in Egypt.

Clark and Ghlay found that Coptic women were indeed lured into marriages and forced conversions with Muslim men and suffered physical and psychological abuse beforehand and afterwards

They indicated that the physical abuse included drugging, rapes and beatings.

The authors interviewed women who were forced or lured into marriage with Muslim men, the women's families, a parish priest, a bishop of a monastery providing safe haven to such women, and human rights attorneys.

They also reviewed cases provided by human rights attorneys and members of the Coptic Clergy.

Last year the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) reported on the case of Mary Kaiser.

Her experience is typical of the pattern noted by Clark and Ghlay.

Mary, 19, was studying at a university and was befriended by a female Muslim classmate. One night as they were eating in a Cairo restaurant together Mary fell ill. She was last seen entering a taxi.

"We believe her Muslim friend put drugs in her food and hired people who abduct young Christian girls to kidnap her," her mother Magda told CBN.

The next day police informed Mary's parents they had located her in town near Cairo. She had converted to Islam and married a Muslim vendor.

Mary was called to the police station by four bearded men, four veiled women, and two policemen with machine guns, according to Magda.

"As they walked by, my husband screamed out our daughter's name, 'Mary'. As Mary turned around to acknowledge him, one of the bearded men pushed her away and punched her in the face," she said.

Although Mary's father demanded to talk to his daughter, police told him to leave. They told him the case was closed because she was a Muslim.

CBN reported that Clark testified last year before the Helsinki Commission and debunked arguments that Christian girls were leaving their families for romance.

"They say 'yes' to friendship, romance, to hope, a future, safety, and security," she told the Commission. "Nevertheless, they did not consent to being ripped from their family without ever being able to see them again."

Clark also asked rhetorically if these women had agreed to being forcibly converted to a religion other than their own or consent to a life of activity.

Muslim majority countries are not the only nations in which Christian women are subject to sexual slavery.

FIDES, a Catholic news service, reported in January that Christian women faced trafficking by Hindu extremists in the Orissa region of India.

Orissa was the sight of anti-Christian attacks in 2008 and FIDES noted that the subsequent destabilization of the area made the women vulnerable to criminal activity.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News

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