Hope for Pakistani Christian Girls
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God … Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7
In Pakistan, poor Christian girls can be considered worthless. And they are being stolen.
This peril is impacting our ministry partner. She runs a training center for Christian girls from slums, equipping them to thrive in this country of extreme persecution.
Our coordinator who recently visited the center sent this alert:
The women and girls who come to Saira’s ministry house generally arrive on foot.
Saira (not her name) ministers to about 25 young women and children. She leads Bible studies to teach them about Jesus and encourage them in their faith.
Teachers train the girls how to sew, how to use a computer, and how to do makeup, hair and manicures for brides. These job skills provide poor, persecuted Christian women with options for earning a decent and dignified living. Spiritual discipleship and job skills give hope to women and girls in this harsh culture.
One day, a young woman was walking to Saira’s place when a Muslim man approached her. He verbally and physically harassed her, making it clear that his intention was to forcibly take her and convert her to Islam, abuse her, and perhaps marry her.
She fled and arrived at Saira’s house in tears and shaking. Since that day, several women stopped coming to Saira’s ministry house out of fear for their lives. They felt that the risk of something happening to them while walking was not worth it.
This is the harsh reality in Pakistan. Each year, hundreds of Christian girls are kidnapped. They are sexually abused, forcibly converted to Islam, and “married” to their kidnapper – older men who are typically twice the girl’s age. They are not wives, but slaves.
If the girls are afraid to come for training, they have little chance of a better life. The ripple effect of this persecution keeps Christian girls chained in extreme poverty.
It will take a work of God to change Pakistan’s culture of persecution. Please pray for this. There is another way we can help these girls to be safe. Our coordinator wrote:
Distressed, Saira decided that she needs to transport the girls to and from her ministry house.
“A van can provide girls protection from the kidnappings that hurt Christians,” Saira said. “A van can make the girls’ journey less risky and save the girls from hot and cold and rainy weather.”
“Parents are afraid for their girls to come alone to the ministry house,” she said. “Parents will feel free to let girls come” if they have safe transportation.
She knows that with a van, she could drive further from her ministry house and expand the ministry. She can increase her evangelization and discipleship efforts. She can bring more women to her job skills training.
The U.S. State Department designated Pakistan a violator of religious freedom, in part because the government turns a blind eye to kidnappings of Christian girls.
Thank you for seeing these girls and other persecuted Christians. Your support has helped them. Would you like this ministry to thrive and do more? A used van is $10,700.
Pray for girls in Saira’s ministry to flourish and be safe. Pray for captured girls to be free.
God bless you,
Wendy Wright President
P.S. Thank you for caring. Christian girls may be less than a sparrow in Pakistan, but they are priceless in God’s eyes and at Saira’s ministry center.
Pakistan’s Forced Conversions and False Marriages
In Pakistan, underage Christian and Hindu girls are abducted, abused, forcibly converted to Islam and “married” to their kidnapper to cover up their crimes.
Up to 1,000 girls from religious minorities are forcibly converted and married each year, according to human rights experts.
The problem is deeply rooted in Pakistan’s society. Christians are considered low status and are frequently called a slur for “filthy”. Parents are helpless when their daughters are stolen. Many cases go unreported because police dismiss complaints from poor Christians and parents fear kidnappers and extremists who threaten their families.
Authorities frequently ignore, or worse, assist the kidnappers.
Police and courts accept false statements or videos of the girls—made while they are in the kidnapper’s custody—claiming they consented to marriage. Judges accept forged marriage certificates over birth certificates and other proof that the girls are minors, and hand the girls into the custody of the captors.
A Parliamentary committee rejected a bill to make forced conversion a crime after Islamic clerics and politicians claimed there are no forced conversions in Pakistan. They said the bill was fundamentally against the principles of Sharia and was an attempt to limit Muslims’ right to convert non-Muslims to Islam.
After UN experts criticized Pakistan’s abuses, the Islamabad Bar Association organized a seminar on abductions and forced conversions of non-Muslim girls.
Incredibly, the keynote speaker was a Muslim cleric who, with his son, has been involved in a hundred cases of forced conversions. The British government recently issued sanctions against him for forced conversions and marriages. He claimed these are love affairs with Christian girls falling in love with older Muslim men.
Pakistan’s Christians need advocates to expose the truth and protect their girls.
Christian Freedom International urged global leaders at the UN Commission on Women to pressure Pakistan to end the abuse and presented Jubilee Campaign’s research documenting 100 cases of coercive conversions of Christian girls.
“And not one of them is forgotten before God.” – Luke 12:6
Maira Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian, was abducted at gunpoint while walking to work. Her family begged police to rescue her. The kidnapper gave a marriage certificate to authorities, who concluded she willingly converted to Islam and married him. Her parents pointed out the certificate, with her age as 18, contradicted her government ID.
The Lahore High Court ruled in favor of the kidnapper. Maira was in tears when the judges declared she must live in his custody and be a “good wife”.
Later, Maira escaped. She told police she was forced into prostitution and threatened that if she resisted, videos of her rapes would be public. “They threatened to murder my whole family” she said. Her family is now in hiding. Her kidnapper was not prosecuted.
Charlotte Javed was 13 when she was abducted by her neighbor Iqbal, forcibly converted and married to him. She managed to escape two months later.
Prior to her escape, Charlotte was taken to a mosque. When she declined to convert, the clerics slapped her. Charlotte also refused to marry Iqbal. However, they solemnized a marriage against her will and forcibly put her thumb print on the faith conversion and marriage certificates, which changed her name to Ayesha and her age to 20 years.
Police officers met with the clerics to investigate and summoned Iqbal. He and his family fled, leaving Charlotte in a locked room where she had been confined for two months.
Charlotte cried for help and neighbors rescued her. She tearfully told her father what she had suffered. Charlotte testified to the Lahore High Court that “she is illiterate, and she did not marry or convert with free will.”
The culprits were arrested, then released on bail.
Saneha Kinza Iqbal, a 15-year-old Christian, was kidnapped by a married Muslim man who had four children. He produced false certificates of religious conversion and marriage listing her age as 18.
Saneha’s family filed a petition to the Lahore High Court. The court did not accept the family’s claim of Saneha’s age and abduction and gave the culprit custody of Saneha.
“Conversion Without Consent: A Report on Abductions, Forced Conversions, and Forced Marriages of Christian Girls and Women in Pakistan,” Voice for Justice and Jubilee Campaign, November 2022
In Pakistan, extreme poverty makes Christians—who already face persecution—more vulnerable to abuse.
Christian women and girls are especially targeted by predators when they are poor and unskilled.
At Saira’s ministry center, Christian girls create lovely dresses and elegant bridal parties. They learn valuable skills that are crucial to earn a decent living.
Bible classes teach the most important lessons. Students learn that—no matter what happens—their true source of hope and abundant life is Jesus Christ.
International pressure on Pakistan and training in life-skills are crucial ways to help vulnerable Christian girls.
In March, Christian Freedom International spoke during the UN Commission on Women to expose Pakistan’s abductions, forced conversions and marriages of Christian girls, and urged global leaders to compel Pakistan to end the abuse.
The room was full and the response was passionate. The first question was, “This is the most important topic at this commission. Why aren’t they talking about this on the floor of the UN?”