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Pakistani Court Orders 14-Year-Old Christian Girl to Be Returned to Her Abductor

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Pakistan – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Lahore High Court has ordered Maria Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian girl who was abducted and forcibly married to a Muslim man, to be returned to the custody of her abductor. This decision, made on August 4, overturned an earlier order by the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court placing Shahbaz in a women’s shelter.

On April 28, 2020, Shahbaz was abducted at gunpoint by Mohamad Nakash and two accomplices while walking home in Madina Town, near Faisalabad. According to witnesses, the abductors forced Shahbaz into a car and fired gunshots into the air as they fled the scene.

After the abduction, Shahbaz remained in Nakash’s custody. To justify his custody of Shahbaz, Nakash claims that he and Shahbaz are married and that she has converted to Islam. To support this claim, Nakash produced a marriage certificate stating that Shahbaz is 19 years old. However, the validity of this certificate has been brought into question as the Muslim cleric whose name is listed on the certificate has denied any involvement in the marriage.

Shahbaz’s parents have challenged the marriage’s validity in an attempt to regain custody of their daughter. As evidence, Shahbaz’s parents presented their daughter’s birth certificate to the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court. This document, supported by other school documents, proves that Shahbaz is a minor.

On July 30, Judge Rana Masood of the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court ordered that Shahbaz be allowed to leave Nakash’s custody and placed in a women’s shelter, known as Dar ul Aman, until the Lahore High Court heard her case. Following this order, police also registered a formal complaint against Nakash and his two accomplices for Shahbaz’s abduction in April.

On August 4, the ruling of the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court was overturned by Judge Raja Muhammad Shahid Abbasi of the Lahore High Court. Judge Abbasi reportedly ruled in favor of Nakash because the court found that Shahbaz had converted to Islam. Witnesses in the court claim that Shahbaz was in tears when the ruling was announced.

“It is unbelievable,” advocate Khalil Tahir Sandu, the lawyer representing Shahbaz’s parents, told Aid to the Church in Need. “What we have seen today is an Islamic judgement. The arguments we put forward were very strong.”

“The Child Marriage Restraint Act has been toothless,” Suneel Malik, a Pakistani human rights activist, told ICC. “The legal age of marriage for girls is set at 16. However, this is not effectively enforced by the courts in Pakistan. Judges continue to declare marriages of minors valid on the pretext of puberty under an Islamic interpretation of law.”

“The order is unprecedented and will likely mean Maria will never return to her family,” Shazia George, another Pakistan human rights activist, told ICC. “The decision to make a child bride stay with her abductor will add more misery to the case. Courts must ensure that the victims of forced conversion and child marriage are able to have their statements recorded without any duress or threat so perpetrators are brought to justice.”

According to a 2014 study by The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are abducted, forcibly married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year. The issue of religion is also often injected into cases of sexual assault to place religious minority victims at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.

William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply saddened by the court’s decision to return Maria to the custody of her abductor. This has placed Maria’s safety at risk and will likely mean any testimony she is able to give in court will be tainted by the threats she will be forced to endure in the custody of her abductor. Pakistan must do more to combat the issue of abductions, forced marriages, and forced conversions. For too long, perpetrators have used the issue of religion to justify their crimes against Pakistan’s religious minorities.”

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പതിനാറ് രാജ്യങ്ങളിൽ ഇഫ്താർ വിതരണം നടത്താനൊരുങ്ങി സൗദി അറേബ്യ

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റിയാദ്: പതിനാറ് രാജ്യങ്ങളില്‍ ഇഫ്താര്‍ വിതരണം നടത്തുന്ന പദ്ധതിക്ക് തുടക്കം കുറിക്കാനൊരുങ്ങി സൗദി അറേബ്യ. കൊവിഡ് പ്രതിരോധ, മുന്‍കരുതല്‍ നടപടികള്‍ പാലിച്ച് സൗദി 16 രാജ്യങ്ങളില്‍ ഇഫ്താര്‍ വിതരണം നടത്തുമെന്ന് റിപ്പോര്‍ട്ട് ചെയ്തു.

വിവിധ പ്രദേശങ്ങളില്‍ നിന്നുള്ള അഭ്യര്‍ത്ഥനകള്‍ക്കനുസരിച്ച് അതത് രാജ്യങ്ങളിലെ സൗദി എംബസികളുമായും ഇസ്ലാമിക് മന്ത്രാലയ കേന്ദ്രങ്ങളുമായും ഏകോപിപ്പിച്ചാണ് വിതരണം നടത്തുക. ലോകമെമ്പാടമുള്ള മുസ്ലിംകളെ സേവിക്കുക എന്ന ലക്ഷ്യത്തോടെ ഇസ്ലാമികകാര്യ മന്ത്രാലയം നടപ്പിലാക്കാനുദ്ദേശിക്കുന്ന പദ്ധതിക്ക് എല്ലാ പിന്തുണയും നല്‍കുന്ന സല്‍മാന്‍ രാജാവിനും കിരീടാവകാശി അമീര്‍ മുഹമ്മദ് ബിന്‍ സല്‍മാനും ഇസ്ലാമികകാര്യ മന്ത്രി ഡോ. അബ്ദുല്ലത്തീഫ് അല്‍ അശൈഖ് നന്ദി അറിയിച്ചു. ഇഫ്താര്‍ വിഭവങ്ങള്‍ വിതരണം ചെയ്യുമ്പോള്‍ ഓരോ രാജ്യങ്ങളിലെയും ഗുണഭോക്താക്കളുടെയും വിതരണ തൊഴിലാളികളുടെയും സുരക്ഷ ഉറപ്പുവരുത്തുന്നതിനായി വേണ്ട കൊവിഡ് പ്രതിരോധ നടപടികള്‍ സ്വീകരിക്കുമെന്ന് മന്ത്രി വ്യക്തമാക്കി.

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Court in India Grants Bail to Men Accused of Harassing Nuns

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India – According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), a court in India’s Uttar Pradesh state has granted bail to three Hindu activists accused of harassing two Catholic nuns and their students on a train.

On March 19, two nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart were forcefully removed from a train in Jhansi by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists. The mob falsely accused the nuns of trafficking two young women for the purpose of converting them to Christianity.

Although the two women show identification proving they were already Christian, the mob continued to harass the nuns and handed them over to railway police. The nuns were then marched to the local police station as the mob followed chanting obscenities and nationalist slogans.

Local church leadership eventually engaged with police to resolve the issue. However, the four Christian women had to leave Jhansi the next day disguised in civilian clothes.

Railway police arrested Ajay Shankar Tiwari, Anchal Arjaria, and Purgesh Amaria on April 2 in connection with the incident. However, these three men were granted bail by the Jhansi District Court on April 7.

UCAN reports that the decision to grant bail has brought mix reactions from Christian leaders.

“We can’t see it as a setback for us as there is a provision for people getting bail according to the Indian constitution,” Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai told UCAN. “We should believe in the law of the land. It might take some time, but I believe that one day the accused will be brought under the law.”

Across India, impunity is enjoyed by many perpetrators of religiously motivated violence. In many cases, the perpetrators of anti-Christian violence falsely accuse their victims of engaging in fraudulent religious conversions to justify their attacks. Unfortunately, local authorities often accept these justifications as legitimate and allow perpetrators to escape justice.
Sources:persecution

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