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PAKISTAN: High Court in Pakistan Rules in Favour of Underage Marriage

PAKISTAN: High Court in Pakistan Rules in Favour of Underage Marriage

On Monday, 3 February, the Sindh High Court in Karachi ruled that men in Pakistan can marry underage girls. This ruling, which the two-member bench based on their interpretation of Sharia law, flies directly in the face of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act which forbids marriage below the age of 18.

The ruling was made during the latest court hearing into the kidnapping, forced conversion and marriage of Huma Younus, a 14-year-old Christian girl.

According to local reports, Huma was kidnapped by Abdul Jabbar from her family’s home on 10 October. Following the kidnapping, Huma’s parents were informed via text message that their daughter had converted to Islam and had married Jabbar.

In an effort to rescue their daughter, the family argued that the marriage to Jabbar was invalid under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. The Christian couple supplied the court with baptismal and school documents proving Huma is 14 years old.

However, at the hearing on 3 February, judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that the marriage between Huma and Jabbar is valid because she has already had her first menstrual cycle.

“Once again, justice has been defeated and, once again, our state has shown itself unable to treat Christians as Pakistani citizens,” Nagheena Younus, Huma’s mother said.

The issue of kidnapping, forced conversion, and forced marriage is one of the major issues affecting Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan. According to a 2014 study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, as many as 1,000 Christian and Hindu women and girls are targeted every year in Pakistan.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Aid to the Church in Need

  • Intercede for Huma and her family who have been forced to endure this unbearable situation. Pray for justice.
  • Pray the Lord will rise up powerful voices in Pakistan against this ruling and that it will be quickly overturned.
  • Pray for the protection of vulnerable girls and women throughout Pakistan.

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NIGERIA: Kidnapping in a Christian High School

NIGERIA: Kidnapping in a Christian High School

Gunmen abducted six girls and two staff members from a Christian-run boarding school on 3 October. They forced their way into The Engravers’ College in the village of Kakau Daji, Kaduna State in the early morning. According to witnesses, the attackers were Fulani herdsmen, a group responsible for considerable violence in recent years.

The governor of Kaduna State spoke to the media the next day about an apparent coalition between elements within the Fulani and the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram. He spoke of their reported plans to target schools because of the news coverage it would receive.

The kidnappers have contacted the school and there have been negotiations over ransom demands. Incidents like this bring reminders of similar kidnappings, such as those that took place in Dapchi during 2018 and Chibok in 2014.

Sources: Morning Star News, Aljazeera, Africanews

  • Uphold the victims of this latest kidnapping. Ask for God’s protection and care over their lives.
  • Pray that the negotiations will bring about their safe release. Remember the many other kidnap victims who remain in captivity.
  • Pray Nigeria’s governing officials will be granted wisdom and direction as they take on the difficult task of bringing an end to the violence.

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NIGERIA: Government Official Claims Leah Sharibu is Alive

NIGERIA: Government Official Claims Leah Sharibu is Alive

A Nigerian government official has claimed that Leah Sharibu, a Christian teen kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2018, is still alive. This comes more than a month after a Christian aid worker, also kidnapped by Boko Haram, indicated that Sharibu had been killed by her Boko Haram captors.

“Contrary to false reports, she [Leah] is alive, given assurances from our security agencies, and the government is committed to her safe return as well as all other hostages to their families,” Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman told the media. “Instead of giving up, the government is carrying forward process that should hopefully yield her release by her captors.”

On 19 February 2018, Sharibu, age 16, was kidnapped by Boko Haram along with more than 100 other students from the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, located in Nigeria’s Yobe state. The others kidnapped with Sharibu were released on 21 March 2018 after Boko Haram concluded negotiations with the government. However, Sharibu was not released because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

In July 2019, Boko Haram released a video in which Grace Taku, a kidnapped Christian aid worker, mentioned that Sharibu and three other Christian women had been killed in captivity. In that video, Taku pleaded to have authorities intervene and secure her release.

“The government is pursuing many options to ensure the safe return of Leah Sharibu,” Shehu told the media. “The worrying cycle of speculations on whether Leah Sharibu had been harmed by her abductors is what has made us to speak out.”

Sources: Morning Star News, International Christian Concern

  • Ask the Lord to intervene on behalf of Leah and other captives in Nigeria. Ask Him to be their rescuer.
  • Pray the Lord will have mercy on the perpetrators, to bring about a miraculous change of heart, repentance and faith.
  • Pray for the Nigerian authorities to expedite action to ensure her release.

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PAKISTAN: Series of Sexual Assaults

PAKISTAN: Series of Sexual Assaults

Five young Christian girls have been sexually assaulted in different parts of the province of Punjab in just the last two months.

Christian women and girls are among Pakistan’s most vulnerable members of society. In many cases, they are considered soft targets for abuse and assault because they are a double minority. To the assailants, these victims follow the wrong religion and are members of the weaker gender.

On 2 July, Saira Shoukat, age 15, was sexually assaulted by Muhammad Jafar and Ateequllah in Muzaffarghar. After several attempts by Shoukat’s family, local police finally registered a First Information Report against Jafar and Ateequllah. This simple process, which initiates a police investigation, took almost a month for the local police to complete. However, the victim’s family is still facing significant problems as they are being pressured into withdrawing the case.

Days later, on 8 July, Suneha Sajid, a 14-year-old Christian girl, was falsely accused of stealing gold worth approximately 1,500,000 PKR ($14,200) by her Muslim employer in Shahdara, located near Lahore, in order to cover up a sexual assault. According to local reports, Sajid resisted the assault and threatened to file a complaint. For this, she was locked in a room and beaten several times. Finally, to cover up the incident, Sajid was accused of stealing gold.

In August, Yasmeen Ashraf, age 15, and Muqadas Tufail, age 14, were kidnapped and raped by three men in Kasur. The pair of Christian girls were taken when they were on their way to work as domestic workers.

Also in August, another young Christian girl, named Kanwal, was kidnapped, raped, and forcefully converted to Islam by a group of Muslim men and a cleric in Lala Musa, located in the Gujart District. After reuniting with her family, Kanwal shared that she had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and threatened with the deaths of her brothers if she refused to convert to Islam. As with Shoukat’s family, Kanwal’s family is also facing ongoing threats from the assailants.

Following Pakistan’s third Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations, in which violence against women and religious minorities were highlighted, Pakistan promised to combat all forms of discrimination and violence. The country promised to reinforce the relevant legal framework, run awareness campaigns, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Intercede for the victims. Ask the Lord to comfort them and their families. Pray He will heal them of their physical and emotional trauma.
  • Pray against the stigma often associated with these kinds of attacks. May these victims instead be treated with compassion and justice.
  • Pray those in authority will do all they are able to ensure justice and protection of vulnerable minorities.

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NIGERIA: Leah Sharibu’s Mother Sends Message to President Buhari

NIGERIA: Leah Sharibu’s Mother Sends Message to President Buhari

Rebecca Sharibu, the mother of Leah Sharibu has pleaded with the federal government to intensify efforts towards her daughter’s release from Boko Haram captivity.

Rebecca who made the call last Wednesday in an interview said, “I still plead with the federal government, organisations and individuals to intensify efforts for the release of my daughter, Leah, who has been in the hands of insurgents for one year and five months.”

Leah was one of 110 schoolgirls abducted from a school in Dapchi in February 2018.  While five of the girls died in captivity, the others were released the following month, except for Leah, who was kept back after refusing to convert to Islam.

Also speaking, Aisha Kachalla, Leah’s friend, who was also abducted by the terrorists but was released, said she was worried about the whereabouts of Leah, who has been detained by the terrorists.

“I often cry when I remember my friend Leah. I don’t know where she is.

“I don’t believe she is dead because there is no proof of her death. Her corpse has not appeared in any television station or newspaper.” Kachalla said.

Reports of Leah’s death have been circulating in recent weeks. Grace Taku, an aid worker abducted by Boko Haram terrorists claimed that Leah Sharibu has been killed.

The claim of Leah’s death has not been substantiated and the government has not reacted to the news.

Rebecca Sharibu, had expressed hope that her daughter will return alive.

She has said, “No matter how long it takes, my hope is still alive that my daughter will come back alive from Boko Haram. I still look forward to that day and I am confident that she will return.”

Sources: Daily Post, Sahara Reporters, News Agency of Nigeria, Christian Today

  • Ask the Lord to comfort Rebecca and all of Leah’s loved ones as they continue to wait for news of her.
  • Pray for the perpetrators. Ask the Lord to bring great conviction and repentance.
  • Pray for all captives of Boko Haram; that the Lord would intervene, ensure their release and restore them to their families. Ask God to bring good from their great suffering.

Post your prayer in the comments below.