Christians tortured and forced to quote Islamic canon in Pakistan
According to Adil Ghauri, chairman of the Movement for Christian Awakening, 28 year-old Azam Masih and his brother, Nadeem Masih, were abducted, beaten with iron rods and pressured to convert to Islam on the 22nd of January.
Azam Masih was attacked whilst working in his tailoring shop. One of the perpetrators, Naseem Shah and his gang held Masih at gunpoint and dragged him to the house of another suspect. The gang abducted Masih’s brother, as well. Naseem Shah and his accomplice, Sunny Shah, have criminal records and have been incriminated, encouraging hatred against Christians.
Adil Ghauri confirmed: “The assailants accused Azam of patronizing ‘wrongdoings’ in the area and started beating him with iron rods. The accused then forced the two Christians to recite the Kalima – the proclamation of Islamic conversion- if they wanted to save their lives, threatening to kill them if they refused. The tortured brothers had no choice but to surrender to this demand. We came to know about this incident on January 24 and immediately contacted the family. After much persuasion, we were able to convince the family to file a First Information Report with the police, as keeping silent would have only encouraged the perpetrators to target more Christians living in the village. This is not the first time Christians have been targeted in that area. In fact, after the August 16, 2023, attacks in Jaranwala, at least two or three attempts were made to stir religious tension by throwing torn pages of the Quran near Christian homes. Had the police and district administration taken timely action against the perpetrators of those incidents, this incident could have been prevented.”
Christian leaders have been collaborating with Muslim officials to solve the issue, but the two brothers have been hiding since. Ghauri says forced conversions take place on a regular basis in the area, and local Christians live in fear: “The family has cut off all contact due to fear of reprisal by the accused Muslims. We are trying to find them because their statements are crucial to ensure the prosecution of the accused. Not only our minor girls but even our young men are being targeted by Islamist elements. These incidents vindicate our genuine demand for criminalizing forced faith conversions in Pakistan.”
The Pakistani government cancelled a proposed bill that would have criminalized forced conversions with up to 10 years in prison in 2021. General elections are taking place on February 8 this year, and Christian rights advocates are trying to press for proper safety laws.