10/30/2020, 12.59
PAKISTAN
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Karachi: Court approves the conversion and marriage of 13-year-old Arzoo Raja. The mother's desperation (VIDEO)

by Shafique Khokhar

The High Court also ordered that no arrests take place. The girl had been kidnapped, converted to Islam and married to a 44-year-old man, Ali Azhar. The Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan also denounces the "many other incidents of this type that are not reported". Forced conversions have become the major tool of persecution against Christians and Hindus.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - The High Court of Sindh in Karachi has agreed with the kidnappers of Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old girl who, after being kidnapped, was converted to Islam and forced into a forced marriage with a 44-year-old man.

The court, to which the kidnappers had turned after being accused by the girl's family, agreed with them, stating that Arzoo had freely accepted Islam and freely married 44-year-old Ali Azhar. The court also ordered that no arrests be made.

Yesterday, during the court proceedings, Arzoo's mother, Rita Masih, burst into tears (see video): "Let me see my daughter, she's in there but they [the kidnappers, the police and the court] won’t allow me to see my innocent little daughter. Arzoo, my sweetheart, come to your mom and give me a big hug, my dear daughter. Your sister got sick from what happened to you; your brother no longer eats because they want you home. My daughter is only 13, she is innocent. They [the kidnappers] keep lying and won't let me meet my little girl. I want my daughter back! Please, please, help me!”.

Then Rita Masih passed out, but the court, the police and the kidnappers did not allow her to meet her daughter. In another room, Arzoo was crying (see photo 1) and spread her arms as if to hug her mother, but the police blocked her and kept her away.

In recent days, demonstrations were held throughout the country to denounce the violence against minorities, forced marriages and the specific case of Arzoo Raja.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has condemned this injustice, another example of the growing religious intolerance in Pakistan, where forced conversions have become a privileged tool of persecution against Christians and Hindus. In a joint statement by the president of the NCJP, Msgr. Joseph Arshad and the director Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani), they say that intolerance towards religious minorities "has become an enormous challenge. At least the case of Arzoo has been recorded, but there are many other incidents of this type that are not reported. Arzoo's family showed her birth certificate, which proves that she is 13 and that her marriage to Azhar violates the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. "

The NCJP asks the government to intervene in this incident that has offended the entire Christian community in Pakistan.

For his part, Msgr. Arshad, who is also president of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, added: "Too easily and too often forced conversions are disguised as voluntary conversions, making girls very vulnerable."

The bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi calls on the government to ensure justice in the case of Arzoo and to ensure that these incidents end. "It is the responsibility of the state to legislate to protect its citizens, especially underage girls," he said.

Fr Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani) added: “The horrible aspect of forced conversions is that they are not seen as a crime, much less as a problem that should worry the [Muslim] majority of the country. We cannot allow our daughters and girls to be taken away, forcibly converted and married. In 2016, a law against forced conversions was introduced at the Provincial Assembly of Sindh, but it is still under discussion. The government must work to guarantee the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, as expressed in our Constitution”.

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