Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East
Washington, D.C. October 22 (International Christian Concern) - Rebecca Masih, a young Christian health worker, was on her way to work when she was kidnapped by armed men in Sukkur, a city in Sindh province, on October 2. Rebecca's disappearance marked the third documented abduction of a Christian woman in Pakistan since August.
"Rebecca was going to work at the civil hospital in an auto-rickshaw [three-wheeled taxi] when three armed men dragged her from the rickshaw into their car," Babu Ranjha, a local human rights activist, told ICC.
Rebecca, 23, was reportedly tied with cloth and threatened at gunpoint. All her belongings, including her handbag and cell phone, were confiscated before she was taken to an Islamic center in Daharki, a city of Ghotki district in the Sindh province.
"The head of the [center] declared Rebecca to be a Muslim girl at the local police station," Ranjha explained. "He made a telephone call to her parents to say they shouldn't be worried about their daughter or seek legal protection because she had converted to Islam. 'She will never return to you,' he told them."
Rebecca was reportedly married to Manzar Deher, a Muslim at the center, and given the name Kalsoom Bibi. Prior to Rebecca's disappearance, a Hindu girl had also been abducted and forcibly married by the same kidnappers, the Pakistan Christian Post reports.
Rebecca's father, Younas Masih, registered his daughter's kidnapping with the local police and the case is scheduled to be taken to court. Younas, however, fears that authorities are protecting the kidnappers.
"I beg the authorities, the administration and the Christian leadership to help me get my daughter back," Younas told ICC. "I give my word that I will never press charges against anybody if I get my Rebecca back. I just want her back."
According to Ranjha, Rebecca's parents have audio recordings of their daughter attesting to her Christian faith which they plan to use in court. "There is proof that Rebecca was forced to convert to Islam," Ranjha said.
Rebecca's kidnapping occurred just a week after Shumaila Bibi, a young Christian woman from Faisalabad, was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam on September 24. In mid-August, another Christian girl, Muqadas Kainat, 12 years old, was gang-raped by five Muslim men before her body was found dead in a field in Sahiwal, a city in Punjab province, Salem News reported.
"Complicating matters is the fact that several Christian girls in this remote area have been raped and forced to both marry into the Muslim community and abandon their own religion," writes Salem News. "There is a history in this part of Pakistan according to the Christian community, of local authorities failing to investigate cases of rape or other violence against Christians, often for fear of influential Muslims or militants."
During the first five months of 2012, there were 40 sexual assaults, 14 murders, 22 kidnappings, and six forced marriages of children in Faisalabad alone, reported The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC). Kidnappings of girls and women from religious minority communities are often accompanied by acts of extreme violence, including rape, beatings, and other forms of physical and mental abuse. Like Rebecca, Christian girls are given few legal rights if they are fortunate enough to escape. More often than not, however, their families never see them again.
"It is shameful. Such incidents occur frequently," Christian sources in Faisalabad told Fides, the official Vatican news agency. "Christian girls are considered goods to be damaged at leisure. Abusing them is a right. According to the community's mentality it is not even a crime. Muslims regard them as spoils of war."
For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: firstname.lastname@example.org
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