At least 72 children were converted to Islam and trafficked over the last seven years by a Bangladeshi criminal ring that preyed on impoverished, indigenous Christian and Hindu children, according to the Dhaka Tribune.
An investigation found an extremist Muslim group was going door to door among indigenous communities in the eastern Bandarban district. The group enticed impoverished families to hand over their children, saying they would receive better education and food. However, once the ring was in possession of the children, they shipped them across the country to Dhaka and other places, converted them to Islam and placed them in madrasas.
Police arrested two of those involved in the crime ring on January 1, in a raid in which they also rescued four children from a hotel. The two were charged with human trafficking.
Although police rescued 72 children from this ring over the past seven years, it is not known how many more children were trafficked by the gang. The phenomenon is not new. In January 2010, police rescued 33 Buddhist children who were trafficked to Dhaka after criminals told their families they would be placed in a good school.
In 2013, 13 children escaped while on route to Dhaka from Chittagong and alerted authorities, who were able to rescue six further children from the clutches of traffickers.
"Indigenous communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are often already victims of land-grabbing and displacement. The forced religious conversion of young children adds yet another facet to the already severe marginalization of ethnic and religious minorities in Southeastern Bangladesh,” a spokesperson for the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization told Christian Post, commenting on the trafficking.