Shantona’s 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.