A 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl was kidnapped at gunpoint and her family was reportedly told that they will never see their daughter and sister again.
A poor Christian family living in the town of Gaggo Mandi in the Punjab province reached out to the London-based charity British Pakistani Christian Association after their teenage daughter was abducted by gunmen in the early morning hours of April 15.
According to the organization, which works to provide assistance and humanitarian needs to persecuted Christian families in Pakistan, the family's home was raided by their neighbor's son and a number of accomplices. In addition to kidnapping their eldest daughter, Maria, the robbers allegedly stole the equivalent of $130 in cash and about $500 in jewelry.
Around 3 a.m. that morning, the family was woken up by the criminals as they broke into the family home. The parents recognized one of the robbers as one of their neighbors named Amjad, who is previously known to have taken a liking to Maria.
After entering the home, the men waved their guns and started shouting. They instructed Maria, her mother, Bushra Bibi, and her three younger sisters — ages 13, 12, 11 — to kneel on the floor while the gunman searched through the house for valuables.
While the robbers were inside the home, the family claims that they overheard other men outside of their home asking, "have you got the girl yet?"
Upon leaving, the men told Maria to leave with them, even though Bushra objected and offered to go instead.
"The family were told that they would not see Maria again and were warned not to tell the police of the kidnap or they would be killed," a BPCA report explains. The family believes Maria's abduction was the primary reason for the early-morning raid.
Despite the threats, the BPCA states that the family did go to the local police. Although the police initially refused to register a report and investigate the incident, pressure brought by BPCA's officer in Lahore forced the police station to file a report and start an investigation, which is moving at a slow place.
"Every day I am without my daughter I feel like dying. These men will do terrible things with Maria, she is so alone and vulnerable," Bushra told BPCA. "I asked the men to take me and leave my children but they stole my eldest child from me."
As a 2014 report from the NGO Movement of Solidarity and Peace states that anywhere between 100 to 700 Christians girls are abducted, raped and forced into Islamic marriages every year, Bibi said that she fears that she will be like "many other mothers who never see their daughter again."
"The thought of this is filling me with despair," the mother said. "I have been praying for a miracle and plead with other Christians to pray for Maria."
The news of the kidnapping comes as Pakistan ranks as the fourth worst nation in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List.
"The regular failure by police to react to such cases has created an impunity which leads to bold acts of violence towards Christians and other minorities," BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry said in a statement. "We are in touch with the Government of Pakistan through the high commission and have alerted them to this incident. I am sure that a more concerted response will be enacted by the Police and we have been assured of this."
BPCA is seeking financial help in order to provide an attorney to the family as they try legal means to secure the return of their daughter, which the organization believes will cost roughly $750. BPCA has started an online fundraising appeal to help pay for the legal costs.
Earlier this year, lawmakers in Pakistan passed a new law that seeks to provide better protections for religious minorities and increase punishments for those who force religious minority women into forced marriages.
This month, the BPCA celebrated a victory after a Pakistani Christian mother of three in Pattoki who was kidnapped and forced into Islamic marriage by her Muslim landlord, had successfully secured a divorce from her Muslim captor through the courts.