Pakistan’s culture of injustice was exposed when Asia Bibi, an impoverished Christian mother, was convicted of ‘blasphemy’ and sentenced to death by hanging.
Asia’s crime? Muslim villagers were offended when she – a despised “untouchable” Christian – touched a cup when she brought them water. They accused her of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.
Mobs demanded Asia’s execution. As people around the world prayed, Pakistan’s high court acquitted her on the basis of insufficient evidence. With her life still imperiled, Asia fled to safety in Canada.
Her case drew worldwide outrage and exposed the violence that Christians endure in the Muslim-majority country.
Asia Bibi’s case is unusual only in the attention it got. It is the tip of the iceberg of injustices that Christians face in Pakistan. Another is the horror of “disappearing women and girls.”
An estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls and young women, from ages 12 to 25, are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and forced to marry their captors each year.
If such crimes were not terrible enough, they are often allowed to occur with the full knowledge and passive assent of the communities in which the girls live—and not infrequently with the full knowledge of legal authorities.
The identities of the abductors are often known in the community and by the girls’ families. Yet the power of Muslim mobs and intimidating threats of violence against family members and any who oppose the abductors forces Christians to suffer in silence. As a minority, they remain without recourse.
Excuses are often made for the kidnappers, leading to their exoneration.
“Sometimes the community and even parents say, ‘But she may have left out of her own choice. What if his intentions were honorable, since he married her,’” an expert with the Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development explains,
In a recent video interview, Lord Alton of Liverpool laid out the cases of three girls as illustrative of the thousand or more kidnappings and forced conversions of Christian girls and women in Pakistan every year.
Huma Younus was abducted from her parents in Karachi when she was just 14 years old.
Lord Alton explained, “Judges in the case ruled that as per Sharia law, even if Huma was a minor, the marriage between her and her alleged abductor would be valid, as she had already had her first menstrual cycle.” Huma is still with her captor and reportedly is now pregnant.
Myra Shehbaz is a 14-year-old Christian girl who was reported as abducted and forced to marry. Her parents tried unsuccessfully to get her back. A high court ordered that Myra be rehabilitated in a women’s shelter and then, incredibly, ordered her returned to her abductor. She has reportedly escaped. But she will now face rejection and stigma as she tries to piece her life back together, even as her life may be in danger.
Pumy Muskan is another 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped, forcibly converted and forcibly married to her abductor. After a lengthy legal battle produced some success, she attempted to return to her normal life. But her ‘conversion’ to Islam was viewed as valid rather than coerced, and her return home and to Christianity therefore was interpreted as apostasy. That charge of apostasy subjected her to threats and terror by people who call for the execution of apostates. She was not safe in Pakistan and had to flee.
These three tragic cases illustrate the daily trials and discrimination that Christians endure in Pakistan. Islam is the state religion and the main religion, observed by all but four percent of the population.
The brave families who go to court to retrieve their daughters walk to court alone, while a mob of a hundred or more accompany the accused kidnapper. Excuses and false justifications for the kidnapper often prevail, resulting in continued captivity for the girls and no repercussions for the crimes, which continue to multiply with impunity.
“…[N]ow, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?” –Luke 18:7
- That God will bring justice for these girls and young women and their families, by moving the Pakistani courts and government officials to punish abductors and by moving communities and families to stop permitting and excusing the kidnappers.
- That He will deliver and provide a way of escape for girls and young women who are held captive and homes, safety and the rebuilding of lives and healing for survivors.
- For worldwide condemnation of blasphemy laws, kidnappings and forced conversions, and other forms of persecution.