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Persecution Watch: Prayers Answered—Pakistani Girl has been rescued!

12/8/2020 (Voice of the Persecuted) Dear Prayer Warriors, last Tuesday, we prayed to the Lord to rescue Farah Shaheen , a 12 year old girl who was kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and married to a 45-year-old Muslim kidnapper, Khizar Hayat, in June 2020.

Authorities had told her father to be happy for her conversion. See report

Today we learn she has been rescued!

Police in Pakistan Find Christian Girl Chained in Kidnapper’s Home

We thank and praise the Lord our Father, for unswerving our prayers and the prayers of many. Glory to the King of all Kings!

“1 Praise the Lord.

Praise the name of the Lord;
praise him, you servants of the Lord,

you who minister in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.

For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own,
Israel to be his treasured possession.

I know that the Lord is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.

Psalm 135:1-5

“13 Your name, Lord, endures forever,

your renown, Lord, through all generations.

14 For the Lord will vindicate his people

and have compassion on his servants.”

Psalm 135:13-14

We welcome you to come and join us to pray for the persecuted Church and the harvest on the Prayer Conference Call, tonight!

We will also continue to pray for:
· Leah Sharibu and Alice that they will be set free from Boko Haram captivity

On Jul 08, 2020 · Leah Sharibu was kidnapped along with 109 other students on February 19, 2018 when Boko Haram attacked a boarding school in the city of Dapchi, Maiduguri Diocese, in north-eastern Nigeria. A month later, some of the girls died in captivity and all the others were released, except Leah.

 

· Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison, for his family, the children, and the church in China

On December 28 the police raided the Early Rain Church and arrested Pastor Wang Yi, his wife Jiang Rong, and ten elders of the well-known 750-member church for holding “illegal” services. Some 100 believers were detained, questioned, and later released. Pastor Wang’s wife was also released. Pastor Wang remained in detention.

 

· For Anita, an Iranian Christian, persecuted by the Islamic regime.

 

· For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their Persecution continues

Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence, recently reduced from ten years.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani converted to Christianity at the age of 19 and leads a 400-member house church in Rasht, Iran. Since 2006, Iranian authorities have consistently harassed and detained Pastor Nadarkhani and his family. In 2010, the authorities sentenced him to death for apostasy before acquitting him in 2012. Pastor Nadarkhani was tried again in 2017 on false charges of “acting against national security” and promoting “Zionist Christianity,” for which he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. By July 2018, plainclothes agents raided Pastor Nadarkhani’s home to execute the sentence, beating and apprehending him and using a taser gun on one of his sons. He is now incarcerated at the notorious Evin prison near Tehran.

 

· For the harvest

“2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Luke 10:2

In the love of Christ,

Nadia and Merlaine, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderators

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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God.

The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own.

With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer.

Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you.

If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

Police in Pakistan Find Christian Girl Chained in Kidnapper’s Home

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A Catholic family’s five-month search for their 12-year-old daughter who was kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married to a 45-year-old Muslim in Faisalabad, Pakistan, ended on Saturday (Dec. 5) when police found her chained in her abductor’s house, sources said.

The discovery came on the heels of the killing of a young woman in Rawalpindi, allegedly shot dead by her Muslim suitor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and marry him.

Earlier this year the father of 12-year-old Farah Shaheen reported his daughter was kidnapped on June 25, forcibly converted to Islam and married against her will. Asif Masih said police refused his efforts to register a case against the suspect, Khizar Hayat.

Police finally registered a case against Hayat on Sept. 19, but officers reportedly remained reluctant to arrest him and recover the child. Under pressure from a court and the Punjab Province government, police on Saturday (Dec. 5) recovered the girl and produced her before a judge.

The investigating officer told the court that after a surprise raid on the house, police found Farah chained in a room. Hayat and his suspected accomplices escaped arrest, he claimed.

A police source told Morning Star News that the kidnappers subjected Farah to physical and mental torture.

“The dark marks on her ankles show that she was fettered for most of her time in captivity,” the source said.

The court has handed her to police custody, ordered an ossification test to determine her age and ordered registration of a case against six suspects, including Hayat, he said.

“It severely reprimanded the investigation officer of the case, Sub-Inspector Mehtab, for intentionally misreporting Farah’s age to be 17 in the inquiry report,” the source said.

The girl’s father, a single parent who works as a daily wage laborer, pleaded for custody of his daughter.

“I’m grateful to the government and the court for ensuring my daughter’s recovery, and I hope they will also punish the men who did this cruelty,” he told Morning Star News.

He added that the court should give custody of Farah to her family so that they can comfort the traumatized child.

Although intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 is statutory rape, in most cases a falsified conversion certificate and Islamic marriage certificate influences police to pardon kidnappers.

Christian Woman Killed

In Rawalpindi, Sonia Bibi on Nov. 30 was shot in the neck and killed while on her way to work. She was 24.

Her mother, Teresa Bibi, told Morning Star News that her daughter, the eldest of six siblings, was murdered by two Muslims after she refused to renounce her Christian faith and marry one of them.

She said that the main suspect, identified only as Shahzad, had been terrorizing her daughter for five months.

“He also sent his mother to our house for the marriage proposal,” she said. “We refused because we belong to different faiths.”

Shahzad continued to follow her daughter whenever she left home for work, often threatening to kill her if she did not change her faith and marry him, Bibi said. She said the other suspect, identified only as Faizan, used to accompany Shahzad in stalking Sonia.

Bibi said her daughter left their home for work at around 9:30 a.m., and about an hour later her employer informed the family that police had found her body on a roadside. Officers who discovered the corpse had discovered her employee card on her person and called her employer.

Police have arrested Faizan, while Shahzad is still on the run.

Sonia Bibi began supporting the family as a housemaid two years ago, after her mother injured her arm.

“She was our breadwinner, and I’m still unable to reconcile with the fact that she’s no more,” Teresa Bibi said.

National Commission for Minorities Member Albert David said that they had taken notice of the gruesome incident and would make all efforts to provide justice to the family.

“The girl’s father is a sanitary worker, and she was helping him in providing for the family,” David said. “The main accused is still at large, but his accomplice, Faizan, has surrendered to the police and is currently in custody. Police are grilling him for information.”

In October a committee formed by the National Commission for Minorities announced that it had finalized a draft law to curb forced conversions. The bill, however, will be finished only after consultations with provincial leaders and representatives of various religious, social and political groups.

Stopping Forced Conversion/Marriages

A key aide to the country’s minister on religious harmony recently announced that the government has taken notice of Christians’ concern over the increasing number of cases of forced conversions and underage marriages and ordered investigations on a “case-to-case” basis.

“No one, whether a person or a group, would be allowed to exploit minor children in the name of religion,” Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said at a Nov. 30 press conference after a meeting of leaders of the two mainline Protestant and Catholic churches in Pakistan. “We have found out that a majority of such cases are an outcome of sexual exploitation and have no relation with Islam. Our religion forbids forced conversions, and all people using religion to cover their crimes will be brought to justice.”

The president of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan, Bishop Azad Marshall, said at the press conference that girls are suffering physical, mental and emotional trauma as a result of abductions and forced conversion/marriage. The recent cases of Farah, 13-year-old Arzoo Raja of Karachi and 14-year-old Maira Shahbaz of Faisalabad, were highlighted in the media but represent the tip of the iceberg, he said.

“There are many other cases that go unreported due to societal pressure and fear of reprisal by the accused,” he said, adding that current laws are not being fully enforced.

Catholic Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Shaw echoed his Protestant counterpart’s remarks, saying the rising number of incidents was spreading fear in the minority community.

“An administrative and policy intervention on an urgent basis is necessary to protect the rights of religious minorities, especially of women and children,” he said, adding that the government should strengthen institutional protection of minority rights by undertaking legal, policy and administrative measures against forced conversions.

The Center for Social Justice reports that 162 questionable conversions have appeared in the media since 2013. About 52 percent of allegedly forced conversions occurred in Punjab Province and 44 percent in Sindh Province, while 1.23 percent each were reported in the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa areas. One case was reported from Balochistan Province.

The data shows that 54.3 percent of the girls and women were Hindu, 44.4 percent were Christian and 0.62 percent belonged to Sikh and Kalash communities.

More than 46.3 percent of the victims of forced conversion were minors – with 32.7 percent between the ages of 11 and 15 – while only 16.7 percent of the victims were above 18 years old, though lower courts did not always verify those ages through records of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and schools.

Pakistan ranked fifth on the Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

VOP Note: Keep praying for this young girl to soon be returned to her family and for recovery of all she has suffered.

Pakistan: Muslim man shoots and kills Christian woman for refusing to marry him

 

Forced marriage (100, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons)

In a report sent to Voice of the Persecuted, it shares the heartbreaking news of a Christian woman, Sonia, 24, from Rawalpindi who was fatally shot in the head by Muhammad Shahzad, a Muslim man, for refusing to marry him.

Sonia’s father Allah Rakha Masih, who works as a janitor, said that 13 years ago he moved to Rawalpindi with his two daughters, Sonia, and Nazish, 18, who worked as housekeepers and were a great financial help for the family.

Sonia and Nazish usually went to work together but on the morning of November 30, the day Sonia was killed, she left Nazish at the entrance of the Air Force Colony, where they lived in a rented house, and headed to Behria Town, where she was working.

As she was crossing the G.T. highway, Shahzad shot her in the head and killed her.

Masih said that Shahzad is Muslim and runs a photography studio in the town. For the last 4-5 months he was following and harassing Sonia. He had even proposed to Sonia, but even after her refusal he continued following her and insisting that she marry him.

Sonia kept telling Shahzad that it was not possible as she was a Christian and he was Muslim. She told him they came from two different religions and it was not acceptable in society, but he didn’t agree and kept on threatening Sonia and eventually killed her on 30 November.

Masih said that Shahzad even sent his parents to their home to convince them to agree to the marriage. “But I told them that it is not possible as we are Christian and you are Muslim,” Masih explained. He added: “We are Christians from generations, and Sonia was a “true Christian and strong in her faith and she has been killed for following her Christian faith.”

The police have registered a case against Shahzad, but he is still at large.

Nasir Saeed Director CLAAS-UK said that in the recent year a record number of forced conversion and forced marriage cases have been recorded.

He added: “Although the Pakistani media for some reason, maybe intentionally, or because of instructions from the government, has failed to publish all these cases, thanks to social media platforms for keeping us and the world informed about the ongoing situation of forced conversion, kidnapping and rape cases of young Christian girls.”

He further said that this is not the first case of this nature but there have been several cases in the past like Asma Yaqoob, 24, from Sialkot who died in a Lahore hospital on 22 April 2018 after suffering 80% burns following an attack by a Muslim man, Rizwan Gujar.

He tried to force Asma to marry him but Asma told him he was Muslim and she was Christian, and her faith didn’t allow her to marry somebody outside of her religion, but if converted to Christianity it may be possible.

But Rizwan wanted Asma to convert to Islam. When he lost all hope, one night he bought petrol and poured some on the ground and said that if none of us can convert then let us die together. He said in his statement to the police that he lit the match only to threaten her, but the match fell, she caught on fire and he fled from the scene. Although Rizwan was arrested and put in prison, Asma’s parents cannot get their daughter back.

In another case a Christian girl, Binish Paul, 18, from Karachi was thrown from a 2nd story building by Muslim man Taheer Abbas for refusing to convert to Islam and marry him.  Binish sustained severe fractures to her legs and spine.

Mr Saeed said: “There are dozens of examples of such brutal acts of violence against Christians girls, normally they are asked to convert and marry them (Muslim men) and when the Christian girls refuse they are kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam, and married to the men.

“It is sad as the government of Pakistan is aware of this problem but is not taking any action to stop this ongoing persecution of Christians and Hindu girls.

“What worries most is the attitude of the police and the courts’ decisions in such cases. The police side with the kidnappers and courts, and instead of following the law decide cases in favor of Muslim perpetrators.

“They give the custody of underage Christian and Hindu girls to their kidnaper as we have seen with Farah and well-known case of Maira Shahbaz, who escaped her abductor and is now in hiding from her abductor because she knows that Pakistani laws cannot protect her because of her Christian faith.”

 

Pakistan: Christian father of kidnapped daughter told to be for her conversion

 

 

Policeman told Christian father to be happy for his daughter’s conversion to Islam instead of registering a case against the kidnapper.

In a report sent to (Voice of the Persecuted), a Pakistani Christian father, Asif Masih, of Gulistan Colony, Faisalabad, who is still struggling to get his daughter back from her kidnapper says the police and courts are biased, and instead of registering a case against the kidnaper and recovering his daughter, the policeman told him to forget about his daughter and be happy because she has converted to Islam.

Farah Shaheen, 12, was kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and married to a 45-year-old Muslim kidnapper, Khizar Hayat, in June 2020. But her father hasn’t lost hope and is running from door to door for justice for his daughter, despite finding it very hard especially being a Christian. Asif said that after the kidnapping, Khizar (kidnapper) took Farah to a nearby Mosque and announced that a 12-year-old Christian girl who has now converted to Islam is married to him.

Merely three days after the abduction Khizar converted Farah and married her against her will. Farah, who lost her mother five years ago is the second among six siblings. After her mother’s death she was the one who was raising her younger brother and sisters.

Asif said that soon after the abduction, he approached the police immediately but it was all in vain as instead of cooperating with him and getting his daughter back, the police were siding with the kidnapper, trying to protect him and refusing to take any meaningful action.

“I went to the local police station several times, but it was no use. I pleaded with them to bring my daughter back, but they refused to take any action against the kidnapper.

“I also wrote an application to the Central Police Officer (CPO) of Faisalabad but that too was not enough to get the attention of the law enforcement agencies. Finally, I decided to file a writ in the court following which the police registered an FIR. The entire process took about four months,” explained Asif.

Asif said that when he went to register a complaint about his daughter’s kidnapping at nearby Sarghoda Road Police Station, the police officers rebuked him, told him to leave the police station, and intentionally registered a very weak case against the kidnapper.

The policeman also threatened Farah’s father, saying that if he ever went back to the police station, they would register a blasphemy case against him and he would have to spend the rest of his life in the prison. Asif further said that even after the registration of the FIR against the kidnapper, the police refused to take the case seriously. Instead, they started harassing him saying that he himself had hidden his daughter somewhere.

Finally protests by Faisalabad’s Christian community forced the police to produce Farah in the magistrate’s court. Farah said in her statement that she had married Khizar of her own free will. But Farah had already been in the kidnapper’s custody for months by then and must have been threatened as happens in these cases.

Surprisingly, the court completely ignored the fact that Farah is visibly a minor and without second thought allowed her to go back with her abductor. Asif calls the attitude of the police humiliating and the court’s decision biased as both were favoring the kidnapper and it was only because he is Christian.

“When I visited the police station to meet the investigation officer, Mussadiq Hussain, he got angry at me for sitting on a chair. Calling me “chuhra”, a derogatory term used for Christians in Punjab,” said Asif. He added: “He used to use abusive language and used to say that Christians are meant to clean gutters not to sit in offices.”

Asif’s neighbour, Jamal Haider, confirms Asif’s allegations. Jamal said: “Once I accompanied Asif to a village near Hafizabad to meet the young Farah. It broke my heart to see such a little girl forcefully married to such an old man. How can the magistrate allow such an incident to take place?”

Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK told Voice of the Persecuted that the situation is worrisome as the number of rape and forced conversion cases against Christian and Hindu minor girls continues to rise because of police and judicial bias. He added: “I am also concerned the government is not taking this matter seriously as it is the government’s responsibility to protect and ensure justice to all its citizens without distinction of race and religion.

“Ignorance and inaction from the government is encouraging the perpetrators to continue committing such heinous crimes against Christians and Hindu minor girls, which are not acceptable at any cost in a civilised world.

“While minorities continue to demand justice and legislation to protect their minor girls.

“Recently we have seen there are several cases of Christian girls like Arzoo Raja, Shiza, Huma Younis, Farah and Shiza.

“We have also seen the condemnable conduct of the police and the courts, and Christians’ protest against them as the laws were ignored and the institutions that are supposed to respect and follow the laws, made a mockery of them.

“It is not [only] Christians or Pakistani minorities, but the world is concerned about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan. Human rights are being violated daily by the law enforcement agencies and the government is not paying attention. Pakistan has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)  and therefore it is the government’s responsibility to bring its law in line with the treaties and punish those who are committing crimes against minor girls and taking children from their parents, which cannot be accepted at any cost.

“It is important that the government intervenes, ensures justice and returns all minor girls to their parents. Taking away Christian and Hindu girls from their parents in the name of Islam is not acceptable and the government must stop it.

“Minorities are feeling insecure and are concerned about their future in Pakistan.”

Christian Girl, 13, Forcibly Married, Converted in Pakistan, Father Says

Protest for recovery of Arzoo Raja in Karachi, Pakistan. (Morning Star News photo courtesy of Ghazala Shafique)

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Karachi, Pakistan are ignoring the kidnapping and forcible conversion to Islam of a 13-year-old Christian girl by a 45-year-old Muslim whose two brothers are police officials, sources said.

Ali Azhar, a neighbor of the victim’s Catholic family, abducted Arzoo Raja on Oct. 13, and her family went to police that same day, said her father, Raja Lal.

“When we failed to find Arzoo, we registered a kidnapping case with the local police station,” Lal said. “On Oct. 15 we were summoned to the station, where we were shown documents which claimed that Arzoo was 18 and had willingly converted to Islam after marrying Ali Azhar.”

Police have shown no interest in arresting the accused in spite of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) records showing Arzoo’s age as 13, as she was born on July 31, 2007, he said. Sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 is statutory rape and carries a death sentence or a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison in Pakistan.

Ghazala Shafique, a Karachi-based Christian rights and social activist, said police were doing little in the case.

“Two brothers of the accused are police officials, and they are using their influence to protect him,” Shafique told Morning Star News. “Attorney [Noor Naz] Agha brought this to the court’s notice during the hearing on Saturday [Oct. 24] and also demanded that Ali and all other people involved in the case, including the cleric who signed the Islamic conversion and marriage certificates of the minor Christian girl, be arrested and tried for their crime.”

Agha, a prominent Muslim lawyer, has taken up the case pro bono, a great relief to the grief-stricken parents who have lost their jobs in the search for justice, Shafique said.

“We have asked the police to include the Child Marriage Restraint Act [in the case], but the police are reluctant to include it,” Shafique said. “The court should also ask the police why it has ignored the documents issued by NADRA and Arzoo’s school that clearly state her age. We are also ready for conducting medical tests to determine Arzoo’s age, so why are the police reluctant to produce her in court?”

She said she is demanding that Arzoo be presented in court and that special arrangements be made for recording her statement in a way that would preclude fear from coercion by her abductor.

Shafique said it was the second case of forced conversion of underage Christian girls in Karachi in a year. In October 2019, 14-year-old Huma Younas was kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam, she said.

“Forced conversion is often disguised as voluntary conversion and both the provincial and federal governments need to act against this persecution,” she said.

In Faisalabad, Punjab Province, 14-year-old Maira Shahbaz was kidnapped and forcibly married and converted to Islam earlier this year. After sending her to a shelter, a court in Lahore on Aug. 4 ordered her to be returned to her abductor based on forged documents, but she escaped on Aug. 22. She told Morning Star News her abductor had blackmailed her into giving false court statements that she had willingly converted and married him.

In Karachi, the accused in Arzoo’s case, Azhar, was Lal’s neighbor in the Muhalla Railway Colony West Camp Road locality.

Lal and his wife, who have three other older children, have been hard-pressed to feed them after losing their jobs and were thankful for the pro bono legal help.

“Thankfully, our pleas have been noticed by Christian rights activists and political leaders, and they are helping us in highlighting the case,” Lal told Morning Star News. “My wife and I have been running from pillar to post since [reporting the case], but the police are not showing any interest in arresting the accused and investigating the case impartially.”

Police did not respond to attempts by Morning Star News to contact them by phone and text message.

Pending Legislation

In spite of growing concern over a rise in abduction of girls from minority communities, particularly Christians and Hindus, and forcibly marrying them and converting them to Islam, successive national and provincial governments have failed to pass laws against perpetrators.

A bill against forced conversions introduced in 2016 in the Sindh Provincial Assembly remains pending after Islamists threatened violent protests.

Last week a federal government commission on minorities announced that it would draft a bill to curb forced conversions only after consultations with provincial and religious leaders. Christian political and church leaders told Morning Star News that state institutions and government parties should not succumb to pressure by Islamist parties.

“The government should bring the legislation on forced conversion to parliament without capitulating to any party that objects to its contents or underlying spirit,” said National Council of Churches in Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshall.

He said that forced conversion is not seen as a crime, much less as a problem that should concern “mainstream” Pakistan.

“But it is a very serious crime against the minority population, and the government must show some spine in addressing the matter,” he said.

Marshall added that Pakistan’s entire legal system, from police to the courts, are violating laws and facilitating such conversions especially of minor girls.

“When the parents present a certificate that the age of the girl is below 18 years, the police usually do not attach this document in the FIR [First Information Report], but we have women protection laws in the country, and we need to implement them,” he said. “Besides that, Pakistan is signatory to several international obligations, and such incidents bring a bad name to the country.”

Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that no one shall be subject to coercion to change their religion. The European Court of Human Rights has given some guidance regarding the distinction between permissible persuasion and coercion.

Amir Naveed Jeeva, a Christian lawmaker of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party and a member of the parliamentary committee tasked with investigating forced conversions, said the committee is trying to build consensus on the draft bill.

“One suggestion is to introduce a new marriage rule that includes the mandatory presence of a guardian at the time of marriage and the establishment of shelters managed by the district administrations to house underage girls who want to get married, in order to clear the confusion between force and consent,” he said.

Shunila Ruth, a ruling party Christian lawmaker and parliamentary secretary on human rights, said that forced conversion needs to be addressed at the federal level.

“There is a difference of opinion on the issue at the state level, but things are gradually heading in a positive direction, and we hope that all stakeholders will succeed in formulating a solution to this issue,” she said.

According to data compiled by the Peoples Commission for Minorities’ Rights and the Centre for Social Justice, of 156 incidents of forced conversions which took place between 2013 and 2019, a vast majority of the girls are minors, with numerous cases of girls as young as 12 years old. Muslim groups oppose a minimum age for conversion or marriage, claiming that this is not sanctioned by Islam.

Although intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 is statutory rape, in most cases a falsified conversion certificate and Nikahnama, or Islamic marriage certificate, influences police to pardon kidnappers.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

Christian Girl Kidnapped in Pakistan Says Muslim ‘Husband’ Raped, Threatened Her

Grand Jamia Masjid in Bahria, Lahore, Pakistan. (Meemjee)

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – The Muslim who regained custody of a 14-year-old Christian girl he had kidnapped threatened to kill her and her family unless she gave court statements that she had married him and converted to Islam of her own free will, the girl told Morning Star News.

Maira Shahbaz, who escaped from Nakash Tariq five days ago, told Morning Star News by telephone that he had raped her and filmed her naked in order to blackmail her into giving the court statements. The Lahore High Court on Aug. 4 ordered her return to Tariq after dismissing documents proving she was a minor and evidence of a fake marriage certificate because she testified that, “she’s 18 years old, recited the Kalma Tayyaba to prove she had embraced Islam without any duress, and married Nakash Tariq by choice.”

Tariq and accomplices kidnapped Maira, of Medina Town, Faisalabad, on April 28, according to family members.

“Nakash and two other men took me to an unknown place at gunpoint, where Nakash repeatedly raped me,” Maira told Morning Star News. “He also videotaped me naked and threatened that he would kill me and my family and also upload the video on social media if I told anyone what he had done to me.”

She said she had been forced to sign blank papers and denied that she had willfully become a Muslim.

“I was coerced into making those statements in the courtrooms,” she said. “They threatened to kill us all.”

When her family challenged the underage marriage, a judge had sent Maira to a women’s shelter on July 28 before the Aug. 4 verdict returning her to Tariq.

Maira contracted false marriage with the already married Tariq on Oct. 25, 2019. A family attorney asserted that the cleric whose name was listed on the marriage certificate denied involvement in the sham marriage.

Maira’s attorney, Sumera Shafique, said she had applied for police protection for the girl at the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench because Tariq posed a serious threat to her life.

“The judge has ordered the regional police officer to ensure Maira’s security and also probe the video used to blackmail her,” she told Morning Star News. “I have also filed a suit for cancellation of her marriage and forced conversion in the family court.”

She said that Tariq had filed a kidnapping case in Faisalabad against Maira’s mother and other relatives alleging that they had forcibly taken away his “lawfully wedded wife” from his home.

“The family is in hiding due to the case registered by Nakash,” she said. “I was told that the accused is searching for the girl to stop her from revealing the truth, which is why we decided to appear before the Rawalpindi bench of the LHC as a security precaution.”

She said Maira will appear before the Regional Police Officer on Friday (Aug. 28) to record her statement.

Earlier this month, while ruling on a petition filed by Tariq seeking custody of Maira, a Lahore High Court bench presided by Justice Shahid Mahmood Abbasi stated, “The statement of Maria [sic] Shahbaz as well as her general appearance unambiguously show that she is a grown-up young lady who seems to have attained the age of puberty and who acknowledges Nakash Tariq as her lawfully wedded husband.”

The verdict acknowledged that the judge dismissed evidence her family’s attorney provided that the minor could not have contracted marriage without the consent of her guardian and that the marriage certificate was fake.

“As far as proof of marriage is concerned, the other formalities can be ignored and simple acknowledgement of husband and wife regarding their Nikah [marriage] is sufficient to prove the same,” the verdict states. “In such circumstances, the mandatory requirement of presence of two witnesses can be ignored.”

Regarding authenticity of the marriage certificate, the verdict stated, “Only the family court would be in a better position to resolve the controversy between the parties regarding genuineness or otherwise of ‘Nikah Nama.’”

In February the forced conversion to Islam and marriage of another 14-year-old Christian girl was validated in a court ruling in Pakistan. The High Court in Sindh Province on Feb. 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of Huma Younus overturned, ruling that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.

Huma, a Catholic, was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on Oct. 10, 2019 while her parents were away and was forced to marry the man who abducted her.

‘Forced Conversions Must Stop’

National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP) President Azad Marshall said that Maira’s case and similar incidents called for immediate steps to ensure that minors from minority communities are not forced into false marriages and conversions.

“Forced conversion and marriages of children belonging to the minority communities is a major issue facing our communities,” said Marshall, who is senior most bishop of the Church of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s senate has introduced a bill calling for seven years of prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees (US$590) for those found guilty of forced conversion. The bill also proposes 10 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees for forcing someone to change religion for marriage.

Marshall said enforcement would be key.

“Legislations are made by parliament, but unfortunately we have witnessed that their implementation is lacking,” he told Morning Star News. “The bill for protection of minority rights is a step in the right direction, and we hope that the government will not only ensure its approval but also make sure that the law enforcement agencies implement it in letter and spirit.”

Under the Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Bill, the state would take measures to curb forced conversion of minority communities and would also support victims. Marriage of a minor arranged after changing her/his religion would be considered “coerced” and be declared void.

In a bid to further strengthen protections for minority communities in the 96-percent Muslim country, the draft proposes three years of prison time and a fine of 50,000 rupees (US$295) in case of hate speech or maltreatment of a member of a non-Muslim community. It also bans discriminatory chapters in textbooks.

Those found guilty of discriminating against anyone on the basis of religion would be jailed for one year in addition to a fine of 25,000 rupees (US$147). The bill also protects religious symbols of non-Muslim Pakistanis, proposing a seven-year sentence and a fine of 50,000 rupees in such a case. All of these sentences would be non-bailable.

The senate chairman has forwarded the bill to the relevant standing committee for consideration.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

Verdict in Pakistan Portends More Forced Marriages/Conversions of Christian Girls

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A court decision in Pakistan to return custody of a 14-year-old Christian girl to the Muslim who allegedly kidnapped her and forced her to convert to Islam and marry him will make more Christian girls vulnerable to such trauma, sources said.

Lala Robin Daniel, a rights activist based in Faisalabad assisting the family of Maira Shahbaz, said the Lahore High Court’s refusal to take into account the documented age of the girl and the falsification of documents, including a fake marriage certificate, was unprecedented and would lead to more such cases.

“If the courts of this country start validating underage marriages of girls belonging to the minority communities, it will encourage people from the majority faith to target them with even more impunity,” he said. “A minor child can easily be influenced or coerced into renouncing their faith and marrying someone. This practice needs to be stopped.”

Daniel and the family’s attorney correctly refer to the girl as Maira in court documents, but the court mistakenly called her Maria in its verdict. A Catholic from Medina Town, Faisalabad, Maira contracted false marriage with the already married Muslim, Nakash Tariq, on Oct. 25, 2019 – six months before he allegedly abducted her on April 28, according to her mother, Nighat Shahbaz, a single parent and domestic worker.

According to court documents, Nighat Shahbaz said she and her family were unaware of the fake marriage until after Maira was allegedly kidnapped and appeared in Faisalabad Sessions Court on July 23. At that hearing, Maira told Judge Rana Masood Akhtar that she was over 18 years old, had converted to Islam of her free will and wanted to live with her Muslim husband.

Since the family had challenged the underage marriage, the judge sent Maira to a women’s shelter on July 28 until her age could be determined, as the 2019 Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act bars marriage of a child under the age of 18.

Khalil Tahir Sindhu, lawyer for Nighat Shahbaz and a member of the Punjab Assembly, told Morning Star News that the Lahore High Court (LHC) presided by Justice Shahid Mahmood Abbasi allowed Maira to go with Tariq without considering evidence that the girl was underage and that the marriage certificate was fake.

The cleric whose name is listed on the marriage certificate denied involvement in the sham marriage, and the document failed to show proof of consent from Tariq’s first wife, with whom he has two children, Sindhu added.

“In my arguments before the learned high court, I submitted evidence that according to NADRA [National Database and Registration Authority], Maira’s date of birth is Oct. 30, 2005, and the same is recorded in her school leaving certificate,” the attorney said.

He also argued that the investigating officer of the case, Assistant Sub-Inspector Shahid Wahla, had made no effort to verify the documentary evidence under Section 8 of the Juvenile Justice System Act 2008, which requires determination of age based on birth certificate, educational certificates, and in absence of any such documents, a physical examination by a doctor, Sindhu said.

“When we objected to the inefficient and shoddy investigation by ASI Wahla, the probe was entrusted to Deputy Superintendent of Police Rana Ataur Rehman by the Faisalabad District Standing Board, which oversees complaints against the police,” the lawyer said.

Sindhu added that cleric Muhammad Abu Bakar, under whose name and seal the fake Nikah Nama (Islamic marriage certificate) had been produced in court, had also filed a case against Tariq for presenting a fictitious document.

“It is appalling that the honorable judge ignored these key facts while writing the verdict, even though presenting fake documents in court is a criminal offense and punishable under the law,” Sindhu said, adding that his team will file an intra-court appeal against the single bench’s order and also approach the Supreme Court if it is not accepted.

Sindhu said it was likely that Maira stated she married and converted of her own will due to fear or coercion, as her family has had no contact with her since she was allegedly kidnapped.

“It’s not very difficult to threaten a minor to say what you want them to say,” he said.

Court Admits Dismissing Evidence

The high court’s verdict states that Maira’s family was denied custody because “she stated that she’s 18 years old, recited the Kalma Tayyaba to prove she had embraced Islam without any duress, and married Nakash Tariq by choice.”

“The statement of Maria [sic] Shahbaz as well as her general appearance unambiguously show that she is a grown-up young lady who seems to have attained the age of puberty and who acknowledges Nakash Tariq as her lawfully wedded husband,” the verdict states.

The verdict acknowledges that the judge dismissed evidence her family’s attorney provided that the minor could not have contracted marriage without the consent of her guardian and that the marriage certificate was fake.

“As far as proof of marriage is concerned, the other formalities can be ignored and simple acknowledgement of husband and wife regarding their Nikah [marriage] is sufficient to prove the same,” the verdict states. “In such circumstances, the mandatory requirement of presence of two witnesses can be ignored.”

Regarding authenticity of the marriage certificate, the verdict states, “Only the family court would be in a better position to resolve the controversy between the parties regarding genuineness or otherwise of ‘Nikah Nama.’”

In February the forced conversion to Islam and marriage of another 14-year-old Christian girl was validated in a court ruling in Pakistan. The High Court in Sindh Province on Feb. 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of Huma Younus overturned, ruling that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.

The Catholic girl was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on Oct. 10, 2019 while her parents were away and was forced to marry the man who abducted her.

Supreme Court Advocate Saiful Malook told Morning Star News that sharia (Islamic law) allows girls who have reached puberty to marry, and that previous court judgments have endorsed this interpretation.

“Islamic law says that if a girl has attained puberty she shall be treated as a major, and a full bench of the LHC has already declared that a major Muslim girl needs no consent of the Wali or guardian for a valid marriage,” Malook said. “This judgment of the LHC was endorsed by the Supreme Court in a case reported in 2004.”

Malook said that the verdict in Maira’s case follows precedents established by the LHC and Supreme Court, particularly when a girl has repeatedly told courts that she is the legally wedded wife of the accused and desires to lives with her husband.

Malook, a Muslim who represented Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), in Pakistan’s most high-profile blasphemy case and won her freedom, said that forced conversion contradicts the Koran.

“It is clearly stated in the Koran that no person can be forced to renounce their faith and embrace Islam,” he said. “In Maira’s case, the girl has repeatedly proclaimed that she has converted to Islam without duress, hence prima facie it cannot be said that it is a case of forced conversion unless the girl retracts her statements given in court.”

Pakistan ranked fifth on then Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

“32,000 Christians Butchered to Death”: The Persecution of Christians, May 2020

On May 8, 2020, a man tried to torch the Surp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Church in Istanbul, which in previous years was repeatedly attacked with hate-filled graffiti, among other desecrations. (Image source: Vmenkov/Wikimedia Commons)

  • “The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists.” — The Nigerian Voice, May 14, 2020
  • Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria.”
  • “This [using a church as a personal toilet] is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos…. As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.” — Greek City Times, May 16, 2020.

(Raymond Ibrahim) The following are among the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of May 2020:

The Slaughter of Christians

Nigeria: From January 2020 to mid-May 2020, Muslim terrorists massacred at least 620 Christians (470 by Fulani herdsmen and 150 by Boko Haram). According to a May 14 report:

“Militant Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram … have intensified their anti-Christian violence … with hacking to death in the past four months and half of 2020 of no fewer than 620 defenseless Christians, and wanton burning or destruction of their centers of worship and learning. The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists. Houses burnt or destroyed during the period are in their hundreds; likewise dozens of Christian worship and learning centers.”

The report further states that, since 2009, “not less than 32,000 Christians have been butchered to death by the country’s main Jihadists.”

Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria,” in response to the “rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants…” More recently, in a May statement, the Christian Rights Agenda, another human rights group, expressed concern for “the seeming silence of Nigeria’s President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces has not only failed to protect the Christian communities but has remained silent over these killings. To date, no Fulani herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted over the killings, a development that has helped to embolden them.” It is worth noting that Buhari himself is a Fulani Muslim.

Separately, the Muslim man who murdered Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old seminarian at the Good Shepherd Seminary, confessed from his jail cell that he did so because the youth “continued preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” to his captors. According to the May 3 report, “the first day Nnadi was kidnapped … he did not allow [Mustapha Mohammed, his murderer] to have peace” due to his relentless preaching of the Gospel. Mohammed “did not like the confidence displayed by the young man and decided to send him to an early grave.”

Democratic Republic of Congo: Muslim fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), murdered at least 17 people, possibly many more, in the Christian-majority (95%) African nation. “They fired several shots in the air,” a local said. “When the population was fleeing, they captured some people and cut them up with machetes.” In late 2019, the same group murdered a pastor after he refused to stop preaching and convert to Islam.

Attacks on Christian Churches, Cemeteries, and Crosses

Greece: Muslim migrants ransacked and transformed a church into their personal toilet. This public restroom was once the St. Catherine Church in Moria, a small town on the island of Lesvos, which has been flooded with migrants who arrived via Turkey. “The smell inside is unbearable,” said a local. “[T]he metropolitan of Mytilene is aware of the situation in the area, nevertheless, he does not wish to deal with it for his own reasons.” According to the report:

“This is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos….

“As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.

“These continued attacks have ultimately seen the people of Lesvos, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, become increasingly frustrated by the unresolved situation that has restricted and changed their lives as they no longer feel safe on their once near crime-free island.”

Other incidents on Lesvos include “African immigrants ridiculing and coughing on police in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of olives trees being destroyed.”

Turkey: On May 8, a man tried to torch a church in Istanbul; the church had been attacked in the previous years, sometimes with hate-filled graffiti. When police detained the arsonist, he said “I burned it because they [Christians] brought the coronavirus [onto Turkey].” Discussing this incident, another report said that “Minorities in Turkey, such as Armenians, Rums and Syriacs [all Christians], as well as their places of worship, are occasionally targeted in hate attacks.”

Two weeks later, on May 22, in broad daylight, a man climbed the fence of a historic Armenian church in Istanbul and proceeded to yank off its metal cross and hurl it to the ground, as captured on surveillance footage. The man, who looks more like a Westernized “hipster” than an ardent Islamist, walks up to and stares at the cross for a while — he even looks at and strikes a pose for the security camera — before attacking the crucifix.

Pakistan: After Friday prayers on May 8, an armed Muslim mob shouting “anti-Christian slogans” attacked and tried to set fire to the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura. Built 22 years ago, the church was desecrated, and a large cross and part of a wall broken. The Muslim man behind the attack had sold land to the growing church a year earlier, and now wanted it back. A Christian eyewitness said that the mob, “after attacking the walls and the cross, challenging anyone who dare oppose them, fled… Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too.”

Separately, Muslim “land grabbers” seized, desecrated, and ploughed over the graves of a century-old Christian cemetery with a tractor. According to the May 22 report:

“The Christian community there reportedly protested against the violation and tried to stop the vandalism. However, they were allegedly threatened with guns… [A]ll graves that were destroyed had crosses fixed on the top… [S]ome of the houses occupied by the Christians were demolished and people were forced to flee from their homes. Amid widespread discrimination against the Christian community in Pakistan, the properties owned by the minorities are often subjected to injustice including land grabbing and being the target of criminals. Moreover, the economic disparities and religious bias in Pakistan’s judiciary have increased the struggles Christians face to recover the lost land.”

Serbia: On Sunday, May 31, two Muslim migrants entered the St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Belgrade during service and robbed several of the mostly elderly congregants. “There were two of them. They broke into the church during the liturgy, which was in progress, and they stole two purses along with three mobile phones,” a church leader said, adding:

“Upon entering the temple, they split up on two sides, and after the people saw what was happening, they managed to catch one of them and take away his mobile phones and the money he stole. The other managed to escape. He took two purses, in one there were 3,500 dinars, while in the other there were 18,000, which was the entire pension of one woman. We handed that young man over to the police, while the other managed to escape. This is an insult. Isn’t anything sacred to people, such as the liturgy? Terrible.”

Egypt: On May 30, 2020 — two days before President Trump recognized Global Coptic Day — Egyptian authorities demolished the only Coptic church in village of Koum al-Farag, even though it had stood for 15 years and served 3,000 Christians. According to the report:

“The destruction of the church was a punishment for the ‘crime’ of building rooms for Sunday school…. When the work began, some extremist Muslims began to attack Christians.”

A separate report on this incident relates:

“According to an ancient Islamic tradition, or common law, churches are prevented from being formally recognised or displaying any Christian symbols if a mosque is built next to them.”

The authorities decided to solve this issue by demolishing the church, which took a tractor “six long hours,” a Copt recalled:

“The decision was not welcomed by the Christians in the village, so they protested by appearing at the site in possession of the documents. However, the police and some radicals began to insult and assault Christians, including women and children. The church leader received so many punches in the face and chest that he passed out.”

In a separate attack in the early hours of May 16, “an air conditioning technician threw a Molotov cocktail inside the Virgin Mary Church in Alexandria.” According to the report:

“Security camera footage led to his apprehension. Fortunately, no one was injured in this attack. Predictably, however, the prosecutors appear to be [pursuing] an acquittal on the claim that the perpetrator of the religious hate crime is also mentally ill. Based on precedent, it is extremely unlikely that this perpetrator will face any consequences for his attempt to torch a church.”

Mozambique: Islamic terrorists attacked a monastery. The four monks residing in it managed to hide and emerge unscathed. However, the hospital they were building for a nearby village was destroyed by the armed Muslims. According to the May 18 report:

“Little is known about the insurgents, and until recently there were doubts they were actually islamists, but they have claimed to be fighting for the imposition of Sharia law in the North of Mozambique…. The attack on the monastery, which included the destruction of a hospital that the monks were building in the village, is the second most serious attack against a Christian target since the troubles began. Last month a Catholic mission was also attacked, although, as here, nobody was killed. Other communities have not been so lucky, as the insurgents have left a trail of death and destruction behind them in the towns and villages they attack.”

Nigeria: On May 7, a helicopter bombed and destroyed a church. The building was empty at the time; no casualties were reported. According to a local leader,

“The helicopter used to hover around the area, dropping some things. We don’t know what they have been dropping but yesterday in the afternoon, the helicopter came and dropped a bomb … [The] Assembly of God church was destroyed including a nearby building…. Hours after the incident, a group of people numbering about 100 pass through the village carrying guns. Some were trekking while others rode on motorcycles. One of them was carrying a flag which is not a Nigerian flag; one other person was making some incantations in Arabic… People have fled the village… The question is who was in the helicopter dropping bomb?… We are very concerned … If it was a mistake by security agencies, they should come out and explain so as to allay the fears of the community.”

Algeria: Four Muslim guards responsible for protecting a church vandalized and overturned its statue of the Virgin Mary. According to the report,

“[T]he chapel of Santa Cruz built in stones extracted from the mountain of Murdjadjo where it is perched, was the object of an attempted theft… Four looters allegedly destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary by attempting to steal it. They have even destroyed other holy monuments in their path….

It was later found, however, that the chapel’s four hired guards were themselves the “looters” responsible for the desecration. The report continues:

“In addition, the Christian community in Algeria denounces… the intimidation which the faithful are subject to. Many Christians have denounced the series of closings of churches in the national territory. Several evangelical associations and organizations have called for an end to ‘the increasing pressure and intimidation from the Algerian government.'”

Iran: On Sunday, May 17, a Christian cemetery was set ablaze, just two days after the tomb of the biblical Esther and Mordecai was also set on fire on the 72nd anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. Damage at the tomb — a holy site shared by Jews and Christians — was reportedly minimal. Few other details concerning the burned Christian cemetery aside from video footage showing smoke billowing over its walls are available. A Hindu temple was also reportedly set on fire in May.

France: Unknown vandals cut down an iconic iron cross that had stood on the summit of Pic Saint-Loup since 1911 and was visible for miles around. According to the May 14 report,

“While Europe has experienced a growing number of acts of vandalism and profanation of Christian sites, the greatest number of such acts have occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments ‘are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,’ according to reports drawing from government statistics.”

Although the identity of the vandals responsible for this latest outrage is unknown, it appears that Western European nations that have large Muslim migrant populations are seeing a disproportionate rise in attacks on churches and Christian symbols. According to a 2017 study on France — which has the largest Muslim population in Europe — “Islamist extremist attacks on Christians” rose by 38%, going from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016; the majority occurred during Christmas season and “many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship.” Similarly, around Christmas 2016, in a German region where more than a million Muslims reside, some 50 public Christian statues (including those of Jesus) were beheaded and crucifixes broken.

Abduction, Rape, and Forced Conversion of Christian Women

Nigeria: Between March 23 and April 30, six young Christian girls and one older married woman were kidnapped. “We are saddened to report to you the battles we have been fighting even amidst the lockdown,” the Hausa Christians Foundation reported on May 4, adding that it “has been working on the following tragic incidences of abduction and forceful Islamization, despite the fact that the lockdown has limited our efforts.” The statement continues:

“The usual practice is that these girls will be forced into marriage and perpetually be abused sexually, physical and emotionally. We are doing our best to rescue these precious lives but our efforts have been truncated by the current government imposed lockdown that has put everything on hold…. The simple reason for the injustice and the persecution we have been subjected to… is because of our faith in Christ Jesus.”

Two of the young girls have since been rescued.

Pakistan: Another young Christian girl was kidnapped. According to a May 2 report,

“On Sunday, April 26, a 14-year-old Christian girl … was abducted by a group of armed Muslim men… [T]he Christian girl’s family has filed a police report and is begging police to recover their relative…. Myra Shehbaz was abducted by a group of Muslim men led by Muhammad Naqash. Eye witnesses claim that Myra was attacked while she was traveling to her workplace as a domestic worker on Sunday afternoon…. Myra’s abductors forced her into a car and Myra tried to resist…. [The] abductors were armed and fired several shots into the air…. [The girl’s mother] fears her daughter will be raped, forcefully converted is [sic] Islam, or even killed…. [A]n estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are assaulted, abducted, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.”

Egypt: In a May 22 report, Coptic Solidarity, a human rights organization focused on the plight of Egypt’s Christians, made the following remarks:

“The indigenous Coptic Christians of Egypt continue to experience increasing persecution, by the government and society…. To illustrate, at least five Coptic women, including some minors, have reportedly been kidnapped or disappeared in just the last few weeks, and Egyptian state security has made no concerted effort to recover them…. Ranya Abd al-Masih, a Coptic wife and mother of three from a town just north of the capital, Cairo… remains hidden despite protests, including from the region’s church, which laments ‘the total lack of reaction by the authorities.'”

Hate for and Abuse of Christians

Austria: A local newspaper reported:

“A graffiti that rightly causes a lot of agitation. The lettering “Christians must die” can be seen at the Traisen-Markt train station. Above it, in the same style, the words “Allach Akkbar” [sic]. The removal of the graffiti has already begun and will cost about 500 Euros.”

Uganda: A Muslim father burned his daughter for converting to Christianity. While traveling with her father, a sheikh (respected elder) of the Muslim community, Rehema Kyomuhendo, 24, heard the gospel and secretly converted. On the night of May 4, while she and her father were staying at her aunt’s home, she called a Christian associate: “As she was sharing Christ with me, I was so overjoyed,” Rehema later explained, “and my father heard my joy and woke up, came from his bedroom furiously and started beating me up with blows, slaps and kicks.” He also shouted that he was “going to kill her.” He broke a gas container, lit the pieces with the unspilt fuel, and began to burn his daughter. Her cries awakened her aunt, who protected her from the sheikh. Last reported, Rehema was expected to need more than a month of hospitalization due to “serious burns on her leg, stomach, rib area, near her neck and on part of her back.” No one has “reported the assault to police for fear that her father might try kill her.”

Pakistan: In another example of abuse of Christians, this time in connection to COVID-19, “an Islamic cleric claims his organization is using COVID-19 food aid to convert non-Muslims to Islam,” according to a May 8 report. Speaking on Pakistani television, the cleric boasted of how when a destitute Christian man came for aid, the “staff of the organization offered him conversion against food which he accepted.” The man was subsequently renamed Muhammad Ramadan, signifying his conversion had occurred during the Muslim holy month. The cleric had added that Muhammad was then fasting (which is ironic considering hunger is what prompted him to convert in the first place).

Raymond Ibrahim, author of the recent book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

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