A 14-year-old Christian girl, who had been kidnapped, gang-raped and forcibly converted to Islam on paper and married off to a Muslim man, was rescued and brought back to her home in the city of Lahore in Pakistan.
The Christian girl, Sneha, who lives in the Bahar area of Lahore and is a Class 9 student at Franciscan Girls High School, is back with her family, according to the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, one of the groups that helped her family.
Sneha says that a Muslim man, identified as Zeeshan, proposed to her but she refused. On the evening of Jan. 14, he pushed her into a vehicle while she was returning home from an academy where she was studying for her final exams. Six other men joined in, beat her and took her to a location unknown to her where she was once again beaten and repeatedly raped.
The men tortured and forced her to sign some blank sheets of paper, which were later turned into a marriage certificate and a certificate of conversion to Islam.
The kidnappers also threatened that she would face serious consequences and her sisters would suffer the same violence if she told her family about the attack.
Sneha is the youngest daughter of Sabir Masih, and has two sisters and a brother.
The family reported her disappearance to the police, and a court ordered the police to investigate.
Five days later, the police rescued her. However, the kidnappers remain at large.
Muslim-majority Pakistan ranks as the fifth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA's 2020 World Watch List.
As the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports, it’s estimated that as many as 1,000 women and girls are forcibly converted to Islam each year in Pakistan, many of whom are kidnapped, married, and subject to rape.
Earlier this month, a court ruled against the family of a kidnapped Christian girl who was forced into an Islamic marriage, saying that no law was broken if the girl had already had her first period.
The Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need-Italy reported that the Sindh High Court in Karachi issued the Feb. 3 ruling in the case of 14-year-old Huma Younus, who was taken from her home on Oct. 10, 2019, and later married to a radical Muslim man.
Judge Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that the Catholic girl’s marriage to her alleged abductor, Abdul Jabbar, was valid under Sharia law because the child had already had her first menstrual cycle.
“Once again justice has been defeated and once again has been proved that our state does not consider Christians to be Pakistani citizens,” the mother, Nagheena Younus, was quoted as saying after the hearing.
Last year, Pakistani lawmakers rejected a national bill that would have raised the child marriage age to 18, after it was opposed by Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadari and other officials.