Two 13-year-old girls from Christian families have been forcibly married to their employers and converted to Islam in separate incidents. These recent cases further demonstrate the ongoing abuse of young Christian girls in the country.
It is estimated that about 1,000 believers were married against their wills to militant Muslims between November 2019 and October 2020.
On 31 May, Shahid Gill received the devastating news that the custody of his 13-year-old daughter had been given to a 30-year-old man who forcibly converted her to Islam and then married her.
Sources: CLAAS-UK, International Christian Concern, Morning Star News, Christian Post, Pakistan Christian Post, VoicePK
Due to the pandemic, Shahid lost his tailoring business and was struggling to provide for his family. Saddam Hayat, the owner of a local beauty salon, offered to give the grade seven student, Nayab, a job as his assistant. Saddam, a married father of five, said that he would treat her like one of his own children and provide training for her to work in the business. Each day, he picked up Shahid’s daughter from her home and dropped her off after work, with the promise that she would be provided with a monthly salary of 10,000 rupees (approximately $84).
After a few months, however, Saddam stopped paying for Nayab’s assistance. Then on 20 May, Nayab went missing. Shahid and his wife went to Saddam’s home to enquire about her. The employer helped search for Nayab, and even assisted the parents in filling out a police report. However, he instructed them to say nothing to the authorities about his connection with the girl. Believing at the time that Saddam was trustworthy, the parents went along with his instructions.
On 26 May, the parents were informed by police that their daughter was in a women’s shelter. The court documentation claimed that she was 19 years old and had converted to Islam a month before. Further, the documentation declared that her life was supposedly at risk and, therefore, she needed to be kept away from her Christian family. A certificate indicating her marriage to Saddam had been registered on the day she went missing.
During the court hearing, Nayab claimed that she wished to remain with Saddam, supporting the documentation that had been filed. On 31 May, the judge accepted the documentation without any question and ruled against the parents. Nayab was allowed to leave with Saddam’s family. The judge refused to consider her birth certificate as proof of age or order biological tests. An appeal is being prepared by church leaders who learned of this situation, and free legal assistance is being provided to the Christian family.
Manuwar Masih and his wife Mehtan Bibi, who have eight children, live on a monthly income of 8,000 rupees ($67). Four years ago, a local doctor, Altaf, offered to pay 10,000 rupees per month to have the oldest two girls – Neha and Sneha – help in his kitchen as live-in workers. The family agreed to this arrangement. Yet, at the end of the first month, Dr Altaf gave the girls only 3,000 rupees, claiming that they were too young. Despite being treated like slaves, the girls continued to be employed by him for four years.
Over time, Sneha’s health began to deteriorate, and she was allowed to return to her family. However, the doctor refused to allow 13-year-old Neha to return. Dr Altaf claimed that he had overpaid them 275,000 rupees ($2,315), which would need to be repaid before he would allow Neha to move back home. He also stated that Neha had converted to Islam since non-Muslims were not allowed to touch their food.
CLAAS-UK, an organisation advocating for Christians in Pakistan who are persecuted for their faith, describes this case as one of the
“most egregious example(s) of modern slavery and religious abuse.”
Let us pray.
- Prayerfully uphold these young girls, Neha and Nayab, who are both experiencing terrible confusion as a result of the manipulation and abuses inflicted on them.
- Ask the Lord to provide needed ministry, advocacy and comfort to each of the girls and their distraught parents throughout the court trials.
- Pray the judges presiding over these cases will well consider the truths in each situation, basing their decisions on the facts, so they can act justly on behalf of the victimised girls and their families.