Pakistan: Christians and Hindus appeal to UN over forced conversion to Islam

A detailed report on the case of  Farah Hatim, Catholic girl kidnapped and forcibly Islamized in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab province of Pakistan, will be presented in the next few weeks at the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva. Local NGOs sponsoring the appeal are: "Dominicans for Justice and Peace" "Franciscans International" and "Pax Romana.”

Christian student nurse Farah Hatim from Jinnah Colony of Rahim Yar Khan, aged 24, was kidnapped on May 7, 2011 by a Muslim young man Zeeshan Iliyas with the intent to convert her to Islam and forceably marry her. Unfortunately, Superintendent Police Ashfaq Gujjar and SHO city Nazir Shah threatened the victim’s family and did not ready to register a case against the culprit.      

Khalid Gill, a Christian rights activist from APMA told Minorities Concern of Pakistan that police only registered the case when about 400 Christians protested in from of police office.” Despite Christians continues protests, police has recovered Miss Hatim, who is still missing.

TWO CHRISTIAN SISTERS: Two Christian girls were kidnapped by a group of Muslims and forced to convert to Islam and get married. Rebbecca Masih and Saima Masih were kidnapped by a wealthy local businessman, Muhammad Waseem on May 24, 2011 in Jhang, in district of Faisalabad, according to Agenzia Fides. On May 25, Muhammad Waseem forcefully married Saima Masih, in the presence of the leader Muhammad Zubair Qasim, an active member of the banned extremist group "Sip-e-Sahaba", often known for organizing kidnappings and forced conversions of Christian girls and Hindus.

HINDU WOMEN: For several years, Hindu women have been forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men even though they are already married to Hindus. Since there is no evidence to prove their marital status, they are unable to take a legal stand on their issue. This was stated by schedule caste Hindu women during a press conference on June 23, The Express Tribune reported.

Pakistan is home to 3.4 million schedule caste Hindus, also known as Dalits, a minority of 0.25 per cent in a nation of mainly Muslims. According to the 1998 census, upper castes Hindus are just over 2.1 million.\

A COMMON PRACTICE: Kidnapping Christian girls, conversion and forced marriages have become common practice in Punjab province. Punjab is becoming heaven for these groups: Muslim leaders openly call for violence in their sermons, without shame.

A Catholic nun in Faisalabad said the Masih sisters is a common fate of many girls and young Christian women in a society that tolerates discrimination on religious minorities, especially on women.

Minorities Concern of Pakistan learnt that at least 700 Christian girls are kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam every year in Pakistan. Forced conversions of Hindu girls to Islam are often unreported out of fear. 

Alexander Aftab Mughal edits Minorities Concern of Pakistan.

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