PAKISTAN PRAYER ALERT:
Hundreds of Christian Girls Kidnapped and Forced to Convert to Islam Every Year
Sources: (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, BBC News, Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, Christianity Today, Mail Online India, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada)
May 2, 2014
Every year in Pakistan, as many as 700 Christian girls between the ages of 12 and 25 are kidnapped, forced to marry their abductors and forced to convert to Islam. In many cases, girls are forced to state they converted to Islam of their own will, allowing perpetrators to escape punishment. Under these circumstances, girls become victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape and even sale into prostitution and human trafficking.
Pakistan’s Christian minority, accounting for approximately 1.6% of the population, is one of the poorest, most vulnerable groups in Pakistani society, suffering from high levels of intolerance and persecution within the country. High poverty rates have negatively impacted Christian girls, forcing them to work as domestic servants where they suffer abuse, harassment, forced conversion to Islam and even murder.
The severe intolerance towards the Christian minority in Pakistan has intensified the plight of Christian girls as it discourages reporting cases of forced marriage and conversion and prevents justice from being achieved. Where cases of forced marriage and conversion have been reported, police have shown blatant disregard for the criminal justice system – and if cases make it into court, girls remain in the custody of their abductor during court proceedings. In many instances, girls are forced to say they entered the marriage voluntarily and chose to convert to Islam. As a result, attempts to free girls from forced marriages are often unsuccessful.
After visiting Pakistan this month, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett stated, “We remain very concerned by repeated incidents of religiously motivated violence in Pakistan and the callous disregard of extremists for the rights of individuals of all faiths to practise their religion in peace and security.” Bennett also announced two projects aimed at promoting religious freedom in Pakistan, which will be supported by Canada’s Religious Freedom Fund:
- The Leaders of Influence Initiative has been created to advocate for positive change in Pakistan’s policy-making institutions, and to encourage Pakistan to fulfill its obligations under international human rights law.
- The State of Minorities and Freedom of Religion in Pakistan has been created to document cases of religious persecution and to create awareness of the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan.
ASIA BIBI UPDATE:
Asia Bibi remains in prison after her April 14 appeal hearing was delayed. Bibi, a Christian woman in Pakistan, was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. This is the third time Bibi’s appeal hearing has been postponed.
- Please pray for the safety and protection of Christian girls in Pakistan, for courage to report cases of forced marriage and conversion, and that perpetrators would be brought to justice.
- Pray for healing for Christian girls who have escaped from forced marriages.
- Pray that positive change can be achieved through the religious freedom projects in Pakistan.
- Please continue to pray for Asia Bibi’s release.
**UPDATE! MORE KIDNAPPINGS IN NIGERIA: On April 16, 2014, more than 200 young Christian girls were abducted by the Boko Haram, an Islamic Extremist group, from their boarding school dorms in the middle of the night. Please pray for their safe return.
Forced Marriages & Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan April 2014 Report from Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan (www.msp-pk.org)
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
U.S. CIA: World Fact Book (go to "World Fact Book" link, then choose "Pakistan" from drop-down list)
Human Rights Watch
Voice of the Martyrs
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