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Protesters demanding construction of Hindu temple in Islamabad. Protesters demanding construction of Hindu temple in Islamabad.   (AFP or licensors)

Pakistan’s minorities plan Dec 10 "Black Day for Human Rights"

The United Nations marks Human Rights Day on December 10. But on that day, Pakistani Christians and religious minorities plan to protest against increasing abduction and forced conversion and marriage of their women and girls by Muslims.

By Vatican News

Christians and other religious minorities, as well as vulnerable and defenceless people in Pakistan, have been called to observe a "Black Day for Human Rights" across Pakistan on Human Rights Day, December 10, in protest against the increasing number of violence and violations of their inalienable rights.  

Human rights activists, defenders of minority rights, social workers, as well asChurch, political, and civil society leaders in Pakistan, are inviting all citizens to join this "battle of civilization and democracy" for the country, the Vatican’s Fides news reported. 

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December, the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  A milestone in the history of human rights, the Declaration set out, for the first time, the fundamental human rights of everyone to be universally protected.

Legislation and enforcement needed

"We encourage all Pakistani citizen to join our call to observe International Human Rights Day as a 'Black Day', especially for our Christian community,” said Khalid Shahzad, a well-known activist for human and minority rights in Lahore. “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," he told Fides.

Khalid Shahzad, who also runs a charity for disabled children, explained that they want to be the voice of all the other Christian and Hindu girl and woman victims. "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," he said.

Farah Shaheen’s case

The protest comes in the wake of the rescue on December 5 of a 12-year-old Christian girl, Farah Shaheen, 5 months after Muslim men allegedly abducted and forcibly converted her to Islam, and one of them married her. Khalid Shahzad said the girl was found with signs and injuries to her ankles and feet. 

He alleged the police officer falsified the documents, stating Farah was 17 years old. Because of the complicity of the police, it was not until last September that the family was able to file a complaint. After her rescue, police produced Farah Shaheen before the district court of Faisalabad last week, and the court sent to a shelter house, according to rights activists on social media.  

Lala Robin Daniel, a Christian and President of the "National Alliance for Minorities in Pakistan," also has appealed to 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," he said.

Father Bonnie Mendes, a priest from Faisalabad spoke about the recent killing of a Christian woman, stressing the need to halt the criminal activity of depriving Christians in Pakistan of their personal freedoms. He cited the case of Sonia Bibi, a 24-year-old Christian woman in Rawalpindi, who was shot in the head on November 30 by a Muslim man for refusing his marriage proposal. She died of serious injuries during her hospitalization. 

State obligation

Pakistan's National Commission on the Rights of Child on Monday issued a policy brief stressing the need for a new law to curb increasing incidents of abduction, conversion, and forced marriage of Hindu and Christian girls.

The policy brief, sent to the heads of all federal and state governments and the judiciary, said, “Pakistan is duty-bound to protect all its citizens' rights, including members of various religious faiths.” Child abuse cases in the country reported internationally have placed Pakistan's government "in a very fragile position," it said. The state agency wants the government to remove inconsistencies in laws banning child marriage, and in various other legislation, including laws on marriage in general and conversion. It also called for strict enforcement of existing laws in cases of forced conversions, child marriages, and violation of child rights.

Last month, a government official said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has “ordered an investigation on a case-by-case basis of incidents of forced conversions of minor girls belonging to minority communities, particularly Christian and Hindu, to find reasons for this issue.” “Law and rights are equal for all. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and daughters of minorities are our daughters as well,” Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, the PM's Special Representative on Religious Harmony said at a November 30 joint press conference in Lahore.

According to the Centre for Social Justice, 162 questionable conversions were reported in the media between 2013 and November 2020. The highest number of cases (49) were reported in 2019. Around 52 percent of forced conversions occurred in Punjab province, and 44 percent in Sindh.

More than 54 percent of victims (girls and women) belonged to the Hindu community, while 44 percent were Christians. More than 46 percent of victims were minors, with nearly 33 percent aged 11-15.

08 December 2020, 15:06