A Christian persecution watchdog group has created a new matrimonial dating website that seeks to change the dynamic of arranged marriages and allow Christian refugees in the Asian subcontinent to find a "romantic pathway" to escape persecution.
In response to numerous inquiries from Pakistani Christians seeking help to find their sons and daughters the perfect suitors for marriage in the West who will preserve families' Christian culture, the British Pakistani Christian Association has launched a new dating website that offers a certain level of protection by allowing parents to investigate the backgrounds of potential suitors listed on the website.
As the No. 1 style of marriage among Christians in Pakistan and Pakistani Christians in Western nations is arranged marriage, Shaadi4Christians.com, which went live in late May, aims to give sons and daughters more insight into who their parents are trying to match them up with.
"Often the procedure for an arranged marriage is for one parent to talk to another set of parents without any meeting of the children," BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry told The Christian Post, recalling that his wife's parents wouldn't even let him come near their daughter until after their arranged engagement.
"There were so many questions I had about my wife [before our engagement] and a site like this provides more opportunity for a more strategic overview, especially for that potential husband or wife that will be the most slighted in the whole process," he added. "The parents just trust God. It is the suitors that are the most terrified in these situations."
Chowdhry explained that the website will give advice on how to conduct initial meetings and suggested meeting places. Additionally, the site will send messages to inspire a "stronger focus on Christian conduct within romantic relationships."
But unlike other dating and matrimonial sites like Shaadi.com, Shaadi4Christians will also give parents their own access to the site through a separate user account. Through the website, parents can check to make sure that the Christian suitors, especially those in the West, are actually Christians, involved in the church and live a cultural lifestyle that is similar to their own.
Chowdhry said that a reoccurring problem for many Christian families from Pakistan, India, and other South Asian countries who have arranged for their sons or daughters to be married to suitors in America or the United Kingdom through other websites is that they have often been mislead by suitors.
"We have heard of this before, especially when we are talking about Pakistani Christians. On Facebook, for instance, when people are finding potential partners, we have heard some very awful stories about how girls have been married and when they went to America or Britain and they found that the experience is not what it was expected to be and the husband isn't actually Christian," Chowdhry said. "It hasn't happened once. It has happened several times."
As the website allows suitors to list the churches they attend and their roles with church ministries, the website will give the parents and suitors the ability to request church background checks on potential suitors.
Upon request the of the parent or suitor, Chowdhry said that vetted website officials will call the churches and pastors to verify that the suitors attend those churches and are actually involved in helping the ministries.
"What we are finding with Pakistani Christians is that the first priority is that the potential partner is a Christian and can prove a commitment to God," Chowdhry told CP. "We get requests directly from parents to check with churches that are being named. We will do that, especially if someone from Britain or America wants to contact the daughter in Pakistan. We will check that it is a real church and that the pastor is genuine and that the contact details they provided are the correct ones and not made up. We have officers on the ground who are equipped to do that."
Shaadi4Christians is not exclusively for arranged marriages. The site will also help Christians who are looking for marriage to find their life partners. Although the website is focused toward Christians in Pakistan, India and other South Asian nations, the site is open to Christians of all cultures and countries to join.
"This is not just for arranged marriages. If people want to go on there and chat, they can. Also, they can use this for engaging with potential partners directly," Chowdhry explained. "It will be open for Western or white Christians but this is primarily a Pakistani-Asian Christian matrimonial site."
As persecuted Christians seeking asylum in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other South Asian nations continue to face hardships associated with their dire situations, Chowdhry said he would ultimately like to see persecuted Christian refugees use the site to find suitors in the West who can save them from lives of despair.
"I am sure that refugees in Thailand are going to want to use this because they are suffering so much," he said. "One of the green linings of this whole system is that a young doctor looking for marriage can be seen by a potential suitor in America and they can, in essence, find very romantic way to escape persecution."
"For me, that would be just a highlight of how this system could be a positive mechanism for protecting the Christian asylum seekers," he continued. "It would be a Romantic escape from persecution."
So far, only 40 people have registered for Shaadi4Christians. But for the next six months, Chowdhry said that the website service will be free for all who register. After the free trial is over, users will have to pay about £5 or $7.12 per month.