Abductions, sexual assaults, forced conversions, and forced marriages continue to be a significant abuse faced by Christians in Pakistan.
On 27 January 2019, Maria, 16, was abducted from a relative’s house in Punjab, Pakistan, by a group of Muslim men. For several weeks, Maria was raped multiple times in captivity, forced to convert to Islam, and married to one of her captors. According to Maria, she was severely beaten by four men after she initially refused to convert to Islam.
When Maria’s family came to know that she was missing, they immediately filed a report with the local police. Through several weeks of police efforts, Maria was found. However, this was only the beginning of the legal battle Maria and her family had to wage against her captors. It was also several weeks before Maria was allowed to return home to her family.
The legal battle started in March 2019 with Maria stating for the record that she had not freely converted to Islam or freely married her captor. Instead, she reported that she was forced to do these things against her will and under threat of harm.
A month later, Maria appeared before a court and repeated this statement. After this hearing, the court allowed Maria to return home to her parents. Fearing threats and a repeated abduction, Maria’s family moved to a new neighbourhood where they remain in hiding.
Abductions and assaults on women and girls from Pakistan’s religious minority communities, like that experienced by Maria, are unfortunately common. According to a study by The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are assaulted, kidnapped, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.
The issue of religion is also often injected into cases of sexual assault to place religious minority victims at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.
Following the successful recovery of victims, some victims and their families report continued suffering. Perpetrators often avoid prosecution for their crimes and can openly harass victims and families with impunity.
In Maria’s case, this harassment has forced the family into hiding. Unless they receive assistance from Pakistani authorities, the family will likely remain in hiding until Maria’s captors lose interest and give up looking for her.
Source: International Christian Concern
- Ask the Lord for justice for Maria and her family. Pray the Lord will protect them and provide all their needs. Pray too that He will strengthen their faith.
- Pray the community will show Maria the care, love and sympathy she deserves.
- Ask that the authorities will do more to ensure the protection of vulnerable women and girls and will do all they can to pursue justice on their behalf.
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Pakistani Christian Sneha, 14, of Bahar Colony, Lahore, was kidnapped last month but has since been rescued and reunited with her family.
Sneha is the youngest daughter of Sabir Masih. She was a student of 9th Standard at Franciscan Girls High School, and in the evening, she also attended a local academy for tuition to prepare for her final exams.
Sneha said in her statement that Zeeshan, a Muslim boy, used to tease her every evening on her way home from the academy and had repeatedly pressured her for friendship. Sneha declined his request, telling him that it was not possible as she had to focus on her education and that they were of different religions, but Zeeshan persisted.
On the evening of 14 January, when Sneha was returning home, Zeeshan forced her into the street, behind the academy. She resisted him and Zeeshan became violent. He forcefully pushed her into a nearby vehicle, six more boys also entered the vehicle and started beating her.
They took her to an unknown place, where more men arrived and beat her, taking turns to rape her.
Sneha begged them to let her go home but they refused. Soon after, they asked her to sign some papers, when she refused, they further tortured her. Later she learned that these documents included a marriage certificate and a religion conversion certificate.
They told Sneha that if she told her family and gave their names, she would face severe consequences. They would also do the same to her two sisters.
Sneha’s father, Sabir Masih, reported her missing to police. The FIR (first information police report) was registered at Liaqatabad police station. On 19 January, police rescued Sneha and released her to her parents.
Partners of CLAAS-UK (Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement) are supporting Sneha’s family and providing free legal aid to them. Sabir Masih and his family are receiving threats from the kidnappers who are pressuring the family to withdraw the case against them. The family has been moved to an unknown place.
Last July, Prime Minister Imran Khan had termed the practice of forced conversions as “un-Islamic” and said there was no precedent in Islamic history for forcefully converting others. Christian and Hindu MPs like Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani and Naveed Amir Jeeva have raised this matter in the parliament several times but there has been no further progress.
- Praise God for the return of Sneha. Ask Him to help her overcome this horrific ordeal and bring her complete healing. Pray the Lord’s protection over her and her family.
- Pray for justice for this family. Pray too that more and more voices will speak out against this heinous practice and bring cultural change.
- Intercede for the many victims of kidnapping, forced conversion and forced marriage in Pakistan.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
After a week-long battle, the Nigerian Army has freed nearly 1,000 people from Boko Haram captivity. The operation by the military, led to the deaths of over 50 terrorists.
The operation, which began 28 April is still ongoing, Nigerian military spokesman Texas Chukwu told CNN.
Those rescued are mainly women and children, as well as some young men who had been forced to become Boko Haram fighters, Chukwu said in a statement. The captives were rescued in Borno state, in north-eastern Nigeria, the army confirmed. No further details were given about their identity.
“Those rescued are receiving treatment at a military facility,” the statement said.
The rescue mission follows the release of more than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped in March by Boko Haram from Dapchi, a town in Nigeria’s Yobe State.
The operation, which was conducted in conjunction with Cameroonian and Nigerian troops of the Multinational Joint Task Force, rescued the hostages from Malamkari, Amchaka, Walasa and Gora villages of the Bama Local Government Area.
Sources: International Christian Concern, CNN
- Praise God for the rescue of these captives.
- Ask the Lord to minister to those suffering from emotional and physical trauma. Pray they will receive all the care they need.
- Pray the Lord will continue to help these captives adjust to their new lives, as they are reunited with their families.