10/28/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – According to Independent Catholic News (ICN), the parents of Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Pakistani Christian girl abducted and forcefully married by an adult Muslim man, have appealed to have their daughter safely returned.
According to the First Information Report, Arzoo’s father, Raja, told police his daughter was abducted from the family home in Karachi’s Railway Colony shortly after he and his wife went to work on October 13. Two days later, police summoned the family to the station and informed them that Arzoo had married Ali Azhar, a 44-year-old Muslim, and had willingly converted to Islam.
Police claim Azhar produced a marriage certificate that stated Arzoo’s age as 18.
Arzoo’s parents have challenged the validity of the marriage and have appealed to have their daughter returned in the High Court of Sindh. The family has produced Arzoo’s government birth certificate that proves she is 13 and that the marriage to Azhar violates the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act.
“In the name of God, please rescue our daughter,” Rita, Arzoo’s mother, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We are deeply worried. Please help us. The abductor and his supporters are terrifying us and we are in danger from these people. Please listen to our appeal.”
According to a study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted to Islam every year. Many of the victims are minors. Sexual assaults and fraudulent marriages are used by perpetrators to entrap victims and authorities are often complicit.
The issue of religion is also injected into cases of sexual assault to place victims from religious minority communities at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.