In India, Christian Teen Kidnapped by Traffickers, Restored by God
India and South Asia continue to be some of the world’s most notorious areas for sex trafficking, making the globe’s second-most-populous country an often dangerous place for women and girls. Experts estimate that millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India, and the most vulnerable are those from the most disadvantaged strata—including religious minorities. Thought of as “less than” with no real human rights and already disenfranchised from Hindu society, Christian women and girls in India are often targets of persecution expressed in unthinkable ways.
Nineteen-year-old Reena has never known anything else other than that persecution was part of being a Christian in India (her parents came to faith when she was very young).
“Nobody wanted to play with me because they were Hindus and I wasn’t,” she says, remembering how it was growing up as a Christian. “When I didn’t take part in their rituals, they would scold me for it. After school, I just came home and entertained myself.”
She also recalls that her parents were forbidden to draw water from the village well: “They had to walk a few kilometers (about a mile) to get water from the river.”
But Reena harbors no anger or resentment toward the villagers that have caused her so much pain, both then and now.
“My parents explained that persecution will come when you are a Christian. And I wasn’t jealous of the Hindus because Jesus gave me joy inside.”
As a teenager, Reena went to school in a different village and lived in a youth hostel (as is customary for young girls in India), free of persecution. But when the family’s money ran out, Reena couldn’t continue school and was forced to go to work, teaching school.
Persecution in the forms of discrimination and exploitation again surfaced.
Initially told she would receive a salary of 1,500 rupees a month ($23.13), she only received 500 rupees ($7.71) the first two months at the job. At one point, they stopped paying her altogether. Six months later, she quit the job only to find another teaching job a few days later. The school’s headmaster invited Reena to a teachers meeting where he offered her some Indian sweets.
“I don’t remember anything after that,” Reena says quietly.
Drugged and Kidnapped
The next 10 days are a blur. Reena says she was held unconscious. That may be true, at least partially. More likely is that what happened to her was so terrible she doesn’t want to share about the days she went missing. She is likely one of the millions of girls in India who are kidnapped and trafficked each year.
At one point, Reena called her parents and told them she was being held “in a terrible place.”
Her parents quickly informed the police, who didn’t act for three days. Only then were higher police officials informed who gave the order to arrest the headmaster and all the staff. All were eventually released.
Reena does share about the chain of events that led to her return. She first remembers waking up in a train car surrounded by several teenage girls.
“They said, they would help me and asked me to come with them,” Reena says.
She could barely walk, but fortunately, Reena managed to get up and leave. The girls followed her.
“I told them to go away or else I would call the police,” she says. “Then they left me alone. I still think they have something to do with my kidnapping.”
14 Hours Away From Home
In the train station, the young girl—still in shock from all that she had survived—looked up and saw the name of the station. She realized where she was—14 hours away from her village. She recalls seeing police officers but being too weak to walk to them. In her pocket were a few one rupee coins she used to call the one friend she knew in the city, who quickly came to pick her up.
“I was so confused,” Reena remembers. “Apparently, I asked her and her parents not to call my parents.”
After a couple of days, Reena boarded a train and returned home where her parents met her and immediately took her to the hospital. Slowly, she began to realize what had happened to her.
“I had all these questions. Why did this happen? And why did the villagers target me of all people?”
As is often the case with victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, deep depression set in. Reena saw no reason to live anymore. The self-described “broken” young girl contemplated taking her life.
Reena continued to talk to the God she knew, praying honest prayers: God, I know You. Yet, this still happened to me. Why?
Light Breaks Through
Reena shares that later she attended a Christian church service—what would become a crucial turning point in the young girl’s life. As the pastor prayed, Reena says she began to feel her physical pain and depression lift. Light breaking through.
“I was really touched by God,” she shares. “When I came home, I was overjoyed and shared what had happened with my Hindu friends. I wanted them to come to a similar church service and also experience God’s healing power in their lives.”
The Word of God became a true anchor and encouragement for her, especially the Psalms, specifically Psalm 25: 4-5: “Show me your ways, LORD. Teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God, my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
And also Revelation 3:20: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
“I realized that if I opened the door of my heart, that Jesus would come in and dine with me,” the young girl says, showing wisdom and strength beyond her years. “So I surrendered to Him. I came to know that it was Satan who wanted to destroy my life, but God loves me.
Looking Toward the Future
“My future is very bright. I will share the gospel with non-believers. I don’t expect more problems.”
Unfortunately, reality is more robust than that. Reena lives outside the village with her brother, who came along with her for this interview. She is back in school on weekdays. But when she visits her parents, she stays home.
“The headmaster said that he is in trouble because of her,” her brother explains. “He wants revenge and may hurt her again.”
Through our partner network, Open Doors is able to provide encouragement and medical assistance for Reena—as well as 12,500 other believers in India.
Says Reena: “I want to thank all those who supported me through prayers, financial help and standing with me in all my struggles and whatever I went through. It is because of all your help that I am a recovered person today.”
Praying With Reena and Millions of Women and Girls in India
Father, we thank and praise You for Your protection for Reena and her sweet, courageous spirit that drives her to share her difficult story and Your Son’s gospel with her Hindu friends. We ask that You would continue to protect Your beautiful daughter and her family and give Reena the words to proclaim Your power. And we ask, Father, that You would be present with the thousands of women and girls in Asia and around the world who are being held against their will. God, we ask that You would bring these persecutors to justice and that they would find You. And God, we ask You to use us as Your hands and feet to be Jesus in these dark situations. Father, show us how we can play a part in setting the captives free and strengthening Your Church in India.