The kidnapping and forced conversion of young Christian and other girls from religious minority groups is all too common in Pakistan. Kidnapping, forced conversion, and forced marriage of Christian and Hindu girls takes place repeatedly. Authorities for the most part turn a blind eye and frequently refuse to help the victims at all.
Pakistan’s small and courageous Orthodox Christian community is as vulnerable to this persecution as are the rest of Pakistan’s Christians.
For previous coverage of forced conversions and the persecution of Christians in Pakistan in general, see here.
“Muslim Forcibly Marries, Converts Christian Girl, Family Says,” Morning Star News, May 27, 2022:
LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A Muslim in Faisalabad, Pakistan who abducted a 15-year-old Roman Catholic girl has forced her to marry him and convert to Islam, but police refuse to help the family, sources said.
Nadeem Masih, a sanitation worker at a textile factory, told Morning Star News that his daughter, Saba Masih, was abducted on May 20 from the Madina Town area of Faisalabad when she and her older sister were on their way to work.
Their 45-year-old neighbor, Muhammad Yasir, forcibly took Saba away in a rickshaw, Masih said.
“Yasir has already been married thrice but does not have children from either of his wives,” he said.
The family called police soon after Masih’s older daughter informed them of Saba’s abduction, but there has been no progress in the case, he said.
“The police are not cooperating with us,” he told Morning Star News. “The investigating officer keeps telling us that Saba has converted to Islam and contracted marriage with Yasir, but he has not shown us any document as yet. We are pleading with police to at least recover the girl and arrange our meeting with her so that we can ascertain the facts ourselves, but he doesn’t listen to us.”
Morning Star News’ attempts to reach police for comment were unsuccessful.
Masih’s wife recently suffered a knee injury, keeping her from earning income as a domestic worker, and their two oldest daughters were working in her place, he said.
“I was forced to take my children, four daughters and two sons, out of school due to poverty, and my wife and elder daughters are working as household helps to supplement our family income,” he said. “We are already suffering from poverty, and now our daughter has also gone missing.”
Saba’s abduction has exacerbated their problems, he said.
“Saba is just a kid and could not have gone with Yasir on her own,” Masih said. “Yasir’s family has tarnished our reputation in the area with claims that Saba had an affair with their son, and that she’s the one who coaxed him into eloping from their homes. We have no one to turn to in this difficult time.”
Saba is among at least three Christian girls who remain missing in Faisalabad city. In July 2021, 14-year-old Chashman Masih was kidnapped from her school in Faisalabad. The next day, her family received images by phone of an Islamic conversion letter, Islamic wedding certificate (Nikahnama) and an affidavit apparently signed by Chashman that she had willfully converted to Islam and married a Muslim man.
Church leaders cite forced conversion as the biggest challenge for the vulnerable minority communities of Pakistan, while rights groups blame inequality and marginalization for exploitation of minority groups.
Anglican Church of Pakistan Moderator Azad Marshall stated on Twitter on Wednesday (May 25), “Kidnapping of our youth must end; today we see a new level of hate when a young girl with hearing and speech impairment was conned and kidnapped in broad daylight. The police must act, the judiciary must send a message. We are being forced to watch as humans are violated.”
In a subsequent tweet, he stated, “Social indifference to predators who use religion to pursue and target minorities and the vulnerable, continuing to saw away at all of our futures. The violation of Saba Masih in Faisalabad is another reminder of just how grim the situation is.”…
Pakistan ranked eighth on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country had the second-highest number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Nigeria, with 620 slain during the reporting period from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021. Pakistan had the fourth-highest number of churches attacked or closed, with 183, and overall.