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ICC Note:

The issue of forced conversion and forced marriage in Pakistan is second only to the issue of blasphemy for Pakistan’s vulnerable Christian community. Hundreds of Christian girls each year are forced to convert to Islam every year and are forced to marry Muslim men. In many cases, these girls are taken against their will and the will of their families and coerced into conversion, sometimes under threat of death. Often, rape is used as a tool to silence and shame these Christian girls into accepting their fate. Please remember to pray for the persecuted Christians of Pakistan. 

10/22/2014 Pakistan (Asia News) – “I am not married with Mohammad Zohaib, he is telling a lie in court, he tried to convert me forcefully to Islam and got married with me in mosque against my will, and this marriage I do not accept,” Maria Bibi tells Asia News, repeating the contents of her statement and filed petition against the man for false marriage on October 14th before additional session Judge Furrukh Hameed.  It is yet another episode  of abuse and harassment of a young Christian woman in Pakistan while the local Church holds a day of prayer and fasting for Asia Bibi, sentenced to death (even on appeal) for blasphemy.

The 20-year old Mohammad Zohaib, a Muslim native of Nazimbad, a town near Faisalabad (Punjab), is a classmate and neighbor of 19 year old Christian Maria Bibi; the two knew each other well, so on August 5 last no suspicions were raised when the young man asked to study together with her.

Mohammad brought Maria to the Jamiya Rizviya mosque, Jhang Bazar, where he recited the Islamic marriage formula (Nikkah) in the presence of a Muslim religious leader, forcibly converting her to Islam. After a few days, Maria succeeded in escaping, sparking the ire of the young man who has tried several times to kidnap her and threatened the girl’s parents to hand her over. However, they have always staunchly refused and defended their daughter from her tormentor.

On October 3rd Mohammad Zohaib filed a complaint against the girl’s parents, the next day they appeared before the judges to testify. At the young woman’s rejection, the young Muslim withdrew the complaint, only to file it again on October 13th. At this point, Maria filed a counter-complaint, in which she claims to have been forced to marry Mohammad and that she will not convert to Islam.

The girl’s family is frightened and desperate for justice. “Our daughter is innocent,” say the parents, “but since we belong to a religious minority we are living in terror.” Interviewed by Asia News, the family’s lawyer Hashmat Barkat, says he hopes for laws “against forced marriages and forced conversions” in Pakistan, to protect women from the minorities. He assured that he will do everything in his power to ensure Maria Bibi justice during the trial.

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