Up to 2,000 Christian and Hindu women and girls are kidnapped every year in Pakistan and subjected to rape, forced conversion, and forced marriages to Muslim men.
A report on the news site Aleteia quoted Shahid Mobeen, professor of philosophy at the Pontifical University in Rome, saying that about 2,000 forced conversions and marriages take place every year in Pakistan.
“The government of Pakistan doesn’t accept [the number of victims as] 1,000 a year, but in the last two years, what I have seen, and what volunteers, nuns and lawyers have found, is that there are about 2,000 forced conversions and marriages a year,” Mobeen told Aleteia.
In addition to Christians, Hindu, Sikh, and Shia Muslim families are being victimized and forced into marriages with Muslim men, she said.
Mobeen spoke on the issue at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington last week
“What happens is a Muslim man who appears to be a friend of the Christian family visits the family, they eat together, and they drink together. This man starts bringing some gifts for the children of the house. The parents think that he is just like part of the family, whereas he is already planning his own future 3rd, 4th, or 5th wife,” Mobeen said.
“And he chooses the most beautiful minor girl between the ages of 10 and 14. Fascinated by the candies, all the nice dresses, all the make-up things, these almost-teenagers think at the beginning that its an uncle who is giving so many gifts.
“Then he sexually violates the girl, converts her to Islam, and marries the same girl. After two days when the parents are looking for her everywhere, they receive a letter: ‘Your daughter has accepted Islam, congratulations, she will be saved,’” Mobeen added.
While the minimum legal age for marriage in Pakistan ranges from 14 to 18 depending on the province, that restriction is ignored by the men who abduct these girls, and sometimes by the courts tasked with upholding the law, said the report.
The U.S. Department of State has designated Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern” because of the attacks on women and children.
Christians make up only two percent of Pakistan’s population.
Christian rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) said “persistent advocacy is necessary to influence the Pakistani authorities to change course.”
The group cited as example the case of a 15-year-old Catholic girl who was rescued from her abductors in late May after strong lobby from protestors and advocates organized by the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan.
“Sadly, so many more kidnapped girls remain captive,” said the ICC.