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Dozens of Christian Girls in Pakistan Targeted for Rape, Abduction, Forced Conversion

Pakistani flag
Pakistani flag

A poor Christian family in Pakistan is calling for justice after their teenaged daughter was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint and raped by five Muslims.

UCANews.com reports the girl named Maria, 15, was taken from her house in Sheikhupura city of Punjab province on June 9. Her father, Jalal Masih, was at his job at the time, working as a laborer.

Masih filed a police report accusing Muhammad Sajid, a local businessman, and four others in the attack in which there were several witnesses.

"The locals saw them abducting her at gunpoint in a vehicle. I reached his (Sajid's) office but he was absent," Masih said in the First Information Report (FIR) filed six days after the incident. "We made contact the next day and he threatened to return her dead body if we informed the police." 

"Sajid escaped after leaving Maria on our doorstep on June 10 night. She was extremely scared," her father said.

As the news of the attack spreads on social media, Christian activists are calling for the arrest of the suspects. 

According to Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), a non-profit advocacy group providing legal aid to persecuted minorities, 28 Christian girls became victims of abduction, torture, sexual harassment, rape, forced conversion and forced marriages in Pakistan from November 2018 to June 2019. 

"The number of unreported cases will be higher as the families of victims usually avoid getting help from biased police officials who support cruel and influential culprits. Only Christian and Hindu girls are victims in such cases," LEAD national director Sardar Mushtaq Gill told UCANews.com. "Crimes against religious minorities are increasing at a high scale in Pakistan." 

"In Pakistan, abduction of girls from Christian and Hindu minorities' communities has been on the higher side since years," Gill wrote in his online blog. "These girls after abduction are sexually assaulted, forcibly married to the abductors and forced into conversions. Some human rights groups define persecution in old fashion(ed) way but the persecutors have changed their ways to persecute religious minorities in a new ways and they called it policy and it could be implemented at both by Government sector and at private sector."

"So it is the need of time to define religious persecution in a broader-way and to believe it or not Pakistani Christians and Hindu are most vulnerable who are being persecuted by Islamic extremists objectively because their poor status and poor defense in society," he continued. 

The news website also reports the interfaith group Rwadari Tehreek launched an anti-rape campaign with a protest on June 15 in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore.

"It is a sad reality that dozens of male and female children are subjected to sexual abuse and violence almost every day," Chairman Samson Salamat told the website. 

"Unfortunately, governments and concerned authorities have turned a blind eye toward these serious violations of human rights and the victims are being denied justice because of the lacunas in the justice system," he said. 

Salamat also called local officials to organize sessions to educate police officers and other law enforcement officials on the issue.

"Most cases are dealt with in a wrong manner because of the bad treatment and attitude in police stations. The victims only become more victimized. Safe and fully equipped rehabilitation centers should be established for the victims of rape and child sexual abuse," he said.

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