The International Day of Human Rights, which is celebrated in the world on December 10, will be “Black Day for Human Rights” across Pakistan to protest against the increasing number of violence and violations of the inalienable rights of Christians and other religious minorities as well as vulnerable and defenseless people in Pakistan. This is what human rights activists, defenders of minority rights, political leaders, social workers, and Church leaders told Agenzia Fides, inviting all citizens to join this “battle of civilization and democracy” for the country.
“We encourage all Pakistani citizens to join our call to observe International Human Rights Day as a ‘Black Day’, especially for our Christian community. We see fundamental rights and freedom trampled every day: our daughters are kidnapped and forcibly converted, only to be forced to marry their kidnappers; often supported by the police because they are Muslims”, explains to Agenzia Fides Khalid Shahzad, a well-known activist for human and minority rights in Lahore.
Khalid Shahzad, who also runs a non-governmental organization for disabled children, says: “We have made this appeal, after the recent recovery of a 12-year-old Christian woman, Farah Shaheen, and because we want to be the voice of all the other kidnapped Christian and Hindu girls forcibly converted to Islam and then forced to marry their kidnappers”. Shahzad adds: “We need adequate legislation and the enforcement of existing laws. We demand the protection of religious minorities, in particular women and minors, an easy target for criminals”.
As reported by Khalid Shahzad, the police recovered the minor Farah Shaheen on December 5, thanks to an order from the Punjab court. The minor was found chained in a room and had signs and injuries to her ankles and feet. Khalid Shahzad adds: “In this case, the police officer also falsified the documents, writing that Farah was 17 years old. According to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan, the girl is 12 years old”. Farah Shaheen was kidnapped on June 25, 2020, by a 45-year-old Muslim man named Khizer Hayat, who converted her to Islam and married her against her will. Because of the complicity of the police, it was not until last September that the family was able to file a complaint.
Lala Robin Daniel, a Christian and President of the “National Alliance for Minorities in Pakistan”, speaking to Fides declared: “We ask all citizens to observe December 10 as “Black day for human rights”. The case of Farah Shaheen is exemplary. It is urgent to do justice”.
“We must stop the criminal activity against Christians in Pakistan, deprived of their personal freedoms”, comments to Agenzia Fides Fr. Bonnie Mendes, Pakistani priest from Faisalabad, recalling the recent case of Sonia Bibi, a 24-year-old Christian killed in Rawlapindi by a Muslim man named Shehzad, for refusing his marriage proposal. Shot in the head on the morning of November 30, 2020, in the city of Rawalpindi, she died of serious injuries during her hospitalization.
Saleem Iqbal, a Christian human rights activist from Lahore, condemning the murder, said: “It is the right of every citizen to exercise his or her freedom of conscience and faith. No individual can be forced to marry or convert. These are fundamental human rights”. In this regard, he cites some precedents.
Last July in Faisalabad, the thirty-year-old Christian woman Saima Sardar, a nurse, was killed by a Muslim man for refusing the marriage proposal. In 2018 in the city of Sialkot, 25-year-old Asma Yaqoob was burned alive for refusing to renounce her faith and marry a Muslim man. Often such murders and violence go unpunished.