World News

2000 women and girls are kidnapped annually in Pakistan

Human rights groups have reported that roughly 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls are kidnapped annually in Pakistan, to be subjected to rape, forced conversion, and forced marriages to Muslim men. One religious freedom advocate, however, says that the true number of kidnappings is twice that previously reported by other observers.

Shahid Mobeen, professor of philosophy at the Pontifical University in Rome, asserts that about 2,000 forced conversions and marriages take place every year in Pakistan. Mobeen, who spoke on the issue at last week’s International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC, contends that the collective observations of volunteers, nuns, and lawyers testify to this much higher estimate.

While not always the case, Mobeen explains that the perpetrators of these crimes against women are usually family friends. The women that they target are often also not women at all, but merely young girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Even despite the alarming severity of these crimes, Pakistan’s Christian community has little leverage in the country to pursue justice against guilty parties. Christians only make up 2% of the nation’s population, and their government is not a strong defender of minority rights. The U.S. Department of State has designated Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern” in part for this reason.

Persistent advocacy is necessary to influence the Pakistani authorities to change course. One example of the impact of such advocacy can be seen in the case of a 15-year-old Catholic girl who was rescued from her abductors in late May. Police investigators showed no initiative to recover her from her kidnappers, but when protestors and advocates organized by the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan (NMAP) pressured authorities, they finally took action and returned the girl to her family. Sadly, so many more kidnapped girls remain captive as the 16-year-old Christian girl kidnapped in April. We pray that justice would come to Pakistan for these persecuted women and girls.


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