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Abducted Young Mother in Pakistan Refuses Forced Conversion


LahorePakistan: A young Catholic mother’s eyes welled up with tears, and her hands shook as she recalled how a Muslim in Pakistan kidnapped her and tried to force her to convert to Islam and marry him.

A 20-year-old mother of a 3-year-old girl and an 18-month-old boy in Okara District, Punjab Province, [First name withheld for security reasons] Masih was abducted from her father’s home in Chak No. 11/4L village on April 17 by five Muslims–Ali Raza, Mohammad Irshad, Niaz Ahmed, Muhammad Imran and one unidentified person, she said.

“I have been staying at my father’s house since September after separating from my husband because of some family issues,” Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

“On April 17, my parents had gone to visit some relatives in the evening, and I was alone in the house when the accused scaled the wall and abducted me at gunpoint.”

They took her by car to a deserted government school, where Ali Raza raped her while his armed accomplices stood guard, she said.

According to her account, Ali Raza from the neighboring village consistently attempted to manipulate her into forming illicit connections every time she stepped out for her chores. Upon learning about this, I relayed the information to my father, who then addressed the matter with the village elders.

After raping her, Raza took her to Lahore along with his accomplices, where they held her captive in a hotel room for three days, she said.

“During this time, Ali Raza continued to rape me at gunpoint,” she said. “He beat me up when I resisted him and threatened that he would kill my parents if I screamed or called for help.”

The distressed woman said that the accused then took her to his home in Okara, where he and his accomplices tried to force her to convert to Islam and marry him by forcibly taking her thumbprint as a signature on a blank piece of paper.

“They wanted me to surrender to their demands so that if there was any legal issue, they could claim that I had eloped with Ali Raza and converted and married him with my will,” she said.

“Even though they tortured me to take my thumbprint, I refused to renounce my faith and told them I would not deny Christ. Come what may.”

The suspects drove her to Quetta city, in Balochistan Province, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) away from Okara District, out of resentment over her refusal and out of fear of arrest.

“While en route, we encountered multiple police checkpoints, but Ali Raza cautioned me against raising any concerns, asserting that he would eliminate me without delay,” she recounted.

After driving for about 20 hours, they stopped at a restaurant to eat and then left her there, she said.

“I only came to know that I was in Quetta when I asked some men about the location,” Masih said.

Unsure of what to do and lacking funds, I felt utterly bewildered.

She was sitting on a roadside, wondering what would become of her, when a Muslim woman, Shumaila Bibi, saw her and approached her.

“She asked me why I was sitting there,” Masih said. “When I told her what I had gone through, she offered to shelter me in her house. Putting my faith in the Lord, I agreed, and she took me to her home in Loralai city, about 270 kilometers from Quetta, on a bus.”

It took her some days to heal and regain clarity of thought, after which she called her father and told him what had happened. The greatly relieved father, Gulsher Masih, said he would come for her, but she said it took him some days to raise donations from relatives for bus fares.

A daily wage laborer, Masih, said he and his wife had almost given up hope of seeing their daughter when they received her phone call.

“As days passed by with no information about her whereabouts and well-being, our hopes faded, but we kept on praying,” Gulsher Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “When I heard her voice after 10–11 days, I cannot express how relieved I felt despite the pain of hearing what she had been through.”

Gulsher Masih could finally raise money to travel to Loralai and bring his daughter back. Of the Muslim woman who took care of his daughter, he said, “I can never thank her enough for treating my daughter like her own.”

He had attempted several times to file a case with the police and also took the matter to village elders. Raza kept returning to his home during her disappearance so his family could convince the elders and police that he was innocent and that Masih had eloped with someone else, he said.

“Ali Raza denied before the elders that he had abducted her,” Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “He also tried to malign her reputation, saying that she must have eloped with someone, and I was wrongly blaming him for her disappearance.”

After her return, he said Gulsher Masih sought help from the legal advocacy group Christians’ True Spirit (CTS) to register a case against Raza and his alleged accomplices.

“However, they have got pre-arrest bail and are threatening me to withdraw the case or face the consequences,” Gulsher Masih said. “No matter what happens, I will not stop the legal pursuit till my daughter gets justice from the court.”

CTS lead lawyer Nadeem Hassan said Masih recorded her statement before a magistrate.

“She has categorically denied converting to Islam and marrying Raza,” Hassan told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News, adding that her case was another example of how abductors-rapists use religious conversion and Islamic marriage to escape criminal prosecution.

Hassan said he hopes Okara Additional Sessions, Judge Ishrat Abbas, will cancel the suspects’ bail and order their arrest.

“The court cannot ignore her statement regarding her forced religious conversion, marriage, and rape, and we hope the judge will order the addition of all relevant sections in the FIR,” he said.

Pakistan held onto its seventh rank on Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List, reaffirming its status as one of the most challenging places for Christians, as it did in the previous year.



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