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A court in Pakistan on Wednesday 22 December handed custody of a 14-year-old girl back to her Christian parents after she testified that she wished to return to them from a shelter home, sources said.

The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued the decision in the case of Arzoo Raja, now known as Arzoo Fatima, whose parents accuse her Muslim neighbour of kidnapping her in Karachi, forcibly converting her to Islam and forcing her to marry him in 2020.

The court had returned her to the shelter home in November 2020 after Arzoo, apparently under pressure, declined to go with her parents. The court, however, gave her the opportunity to consider her decision while at the shelter.

After living at the shelter for a year, Arzoo filed an application requesting to leave the shelter home and move back with her parents of her own free will. The counsel for Arzoo’s alleged husband argued that since she had converted to Islam, she could not be returned to her parents because they were Christians.

The court ordered Arzoo not to meet with her alleged husband, Ali Azhar, who could face a criminal trial under child marriage and rape laws.

Attorney Jibran Nasir, representing Arzoo’s parents, said the latest legal struggle focused only on custody.

“Our case was for the girl’s recovery, which has been granted,” Nasir said. “Her conversion was not the subject.”

Nasir, a well-known human rights activist, added that he is working to prosecute Azhar under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act and rape laws. Azhar, 44 when apprehended, was released on bail earlier this year.

Asked whether Arzoo can return to her Christian faith, Nasir said there was no religious or legal bar to a minor against reconsidering a decision to convert.

“If she was indeed intimidated into converting to Islam, and some days later she finds the courage to give a statement in court, the judge won’t object to it,” Nasir said.

The SHC had ordered that Arzoo’s case be investigated in accordance with the Child Marriage Restraint Act after a medical board declared her a minor. The age requirement for marriage is 16 in all of Pakistan’s provinces except the southern province of Sindh, where it is 18.

Source: Morning Star News

Let us pray.

  • Thank the Lord for answered prayer for Arzoo and her parents. Ask God to help them as they adjust to live again as a family.
  • Pray Arzoo may receive healing and restoration from God. Pray she may experience His comforting and encouraging presence.
  • Pray for justice for this family and for other girls and young women who have been subjected to a similar trauma.