A new report reveals that at least 700 Christian women are kidnapped and forced into conversion to Islam and Islamic marriages in Pakistan each year.
According to the Fides agency, the Solidarity and Peace Movement, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, associations, and institutions, including the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani Bishops, has prepared the alarming report. The report also revealed that about 300 Hindu women experience the same fate each year in Pakistan.
The authors of the “Forced Marriages and Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan” report have cautioned, however, that the number of women cited is the official number of reported cases; “the true extent of the problem is probably much bigger, since many cases are not reported.”
The report explains that the Christian and Hindu women cited are between the ages of 12 and 25, from poor families and lower social classes. Many of the kidnappings are never filed as complaints due to fear of threats. In the cases that do make it to court, the women are often abused and intimidated, then claim they have converted and married freely, leading to the dismissal of these cases.
“Under the custody of the kidnapper, she may suffer sexual violence, forced prostitution, domestic abuse and beatings, if not human trafficking,” the report notes.
Father James Channan, a Dominican priest who is director of Peace Center in Lahore, tells Fides, “The phenomenon has been verified. It is really very alarming and disturbing for Christians and Hindus, who feel very insecure and vulnerable.”
“We have dealt directly with several cases of forced marriages,” Channan adds. “The young people belonging to poor social class and often rich Muslim landowners take advantage of such abuse.”
“In Pakistan, it seems to me that Christians and Hindus suffer social, religious and political discrimination, which is getting worse,” he asserts.