India (MNN) — Sumani, a 16-year-old girl in India, is being pressured by her mother to become a devadasi — essentially a religious prostitute who is dedicated in ‘marriage’ to a Hindu deity. Once dedicated, devadasis are not allowed to marry any man and are taken advantage of in the temples.
Sumani participates in a Children’s Bible Club through Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India, and the ministry is asking believers to pray for her.
Unfortunately, Sumani’s situation isn’t uncommon for young girls in more rural or impoverished areas in India. Erik* with Mission India says, “There’s an estimated 50,000 [devadasis] in South India alone.”
While the practice is outlawed in the country, becoming a devadasi is often passed down through generations and the cycle is hard to break.
“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.”
Although dedicating daughters as devadasis may be deeply embedded in a particular family’s history and lifestyle, Mission India has also seen God break those patterns of sexual enslavement through their Gospel ministry.
Erik shares the story of one woman, Sarita, who 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. 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.”
Mission India’s Children’s Bible Clubs are another way to intervene in the lives of at-risk kids and families, and share God’s love. The Children’s Bible Clubs offer a safe environment where kids can get tutoring help, and participate in biblical lessons and worship.
“Our Children’s Bible Clubs do a great job of letting children be children,” says Erik. “These Children’s Bible Clubs offer these kids an alternative to not experience the life of a devadasi, but to experience the forgiveness and the grace and freedom that Christ brings.”
Please pray for Sumani to be protected from the devadasi lifestyle, and to be able to stay in the Children’s Bible Club where she can continue to learn about her Heavenly Father.
If you’d like to support Sumani and other kids like her, Mission India always has a waiting list of kids who would like to join their Children’s Bible Clubs. A gift of $30 will allow 30 more kids to join a Bible club, interact with their peers in a loving, Christian environment, and learn more about the true God of the Bible. Click here to give!
*Name changed for security purposes.