Forced conversions to Islam is a matter of such seriousness that it "requires immediate action on behalf of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a firm stance in defense of justice, human rights, religious freedom": is what the Commission "Justice and Peace" of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan says, urging the Supreme Court - highest judicial organ of Pakistan - to review the case of three Hindu girls (Rinkal Kumari, Asha Haleema and Lata) forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. After a judicial appeal, the Supreme Court itself, with a controversial verdict, ordered them to return to their Muslim husbands.

Referring to the case, a note of the Commission signed by the President, Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, and by the Executive Director, Peter Jacob, said: "Legal proceedings cannot become an instrument of injustice, when the principle of free consent is applied improperly or in a selective way, and in disdain towards social realities." "For example - the note explains - in one of the above cases, but in many other cases of conversions, the courts neglected to verify the age of the person converted."

"The application of the principle of free consent, without considering evidence that confirms it and without looking at the social context in which religious freedom and gender equality are still a dream, can cause a miscarriage of justice" emphasizes the note. The ruling of the Court on 18 April on the sensitive issue of conversions, "worries religious minorities, who face an existential threat already demographically, but also because of growing religious intolerance in society." The Commission asks the Court to "further consider the matter and to take a principled stand, which has a significant impact" on society. In all three cases, the Court should have applied "the legal principle of protection of vulnerable people" suggests the Commission.

"The Supreme Court or the government can control the damage to religious pluralism through the definition of forced conversions according to international standards of religious freedom which, among other things, include the right to re-convert" the note concludes, by inviting the Court to "a thorough understanding of the issue of forced conversions and the crimes that are hidden under the pretext of conversion."

Regarding forced conversions to Islam, the Federal Minister of State for Religious Harmony, Akram Gill, convened a special meeting of the National Commission for Minorities, presided by him, which brings together representatives of all religious communities. Cases of forced conversions of Hindu and Christian girls to Islam are about 1,000 every year.



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