Some Christian girls in India are reportedly being pressured by their parents to become "devadasis," or religious prostitutes who are "married" to Hindu gods and are taken advantage of by men at temples.
Mission Network News reported late last week on the story of one 16-year-old girl by the name of Sumani, who participates in a Children's Bible Club through the Michigan-based Mission India ministry.
Sumani apparently revealed that her mother is pressuring her to become a devadasi, which albeit outlawed, is a practice passed down through generations in the Hindu majority nation.
Erik Morsehead with Mission India noted that there are many other young girls in impoverished areas in similar situations as Sumani.
"There's an estimated 50,000 [devadasis] in South India alone," Morsehead pointed out.
"These girls often come from the lower castes and their parents have given them to the temples as offerings in order to appease the gods that their family follows. It's just a really tragic lifestyle that these little girls are put into and grow up in."
Groups such as Mission India have been seeking through God's help to break such sexual enslavement patterns, though the process is challenging.
Morsehead shared the story of one woman, Sarita, who also grew up as a devadasi.
"Through an Adult Literacy Class, [Sarita] came to know Jesus Christ, and through Jesus' love and grace, she left that life and she left being a devadasi, which is a big deal. Because of her doing that, Sarita's two little girls will not be entered into being devadasis," he explained.
"So Sarita broke that tie, that history as a devadasi in her family. Now her two young children are going to school and growing up in a Christ-loving home."
Morsehead noted that the Children's Bible Clubs helps intervene in the lives of at-risk kids and families, offering girls a path to escape the life of a devadasi.
Christians face a variety of challenges in India, where they are a growing but small minority as a percentage of the population. Followers of Christ have said that they continue being pressured by Hindu radicals to abandon their faith.
"In states across India, militants have threatened and killed church workers," said Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, in May.
"Extremists have tried to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism. And they have bombed, torched, vandalized and demolished churches."
Government officials have refused to recognize many people's Christian faith. In May, 71 children were detained by police as they were traveling to a Christian summer camp in Nagpur. The police insisted the children were Hindus and charged their nine chaperones with "attempted conversion," though the children came from Christian families, according to Crux Now. The children were later released.