Pakistan: Christian teenager kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam shares her testimony

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Komal, 15, was abducted from her home in Pakistan, raped and forced to convert from Christianity to Islam in June last year. She suffered unrelenting abuse and was forced to marry one of her rapists, who acted as her pimp and she fell pregnant. Throughout her captivity, she had faith that Jesus would be faithful and rescue her from the hell she was experiencing. In February, she managed to escape, and has since shared her story with International Christian Concern (ICC).

“I was sleeping along with my mother on a single bed during a power-cut time in my house yard,” Komal told ICC, describing the evening she was abducted.

“At around midnight, five armed men with masks climbed over the boundary wall and entered into [our] house.

“The armed men brutally beat the entire family and threatened them [with] severe consequences if they shouted for help,” she said.

“Then, the kidnappers dragged me from my mother’s lap to their car in the street. My eyes and mouth were covered with a piece of cloth and they took me to [an] unknown place where five of them raped me in front of each other, taking turns.”

Her kidnappers continued to abuse her during her six months in captivity.

“Burning my female parts with cigarettes was a routine exercise for them,” she said. “Almost for two months they beat me every day for nothing and did not give [me] enough food to eat.”

Komal was forced to legally change her religion from Christianity to Islam and marry one of her captors with forged documents claiming she was 18.

“After almost two months of inhuman treatment and humiliation, they took me to the courthouse and forced me to put my thumb impression on a document that declared me the wife of a Muslim,” she said.

In Pakistan, a woman’s husband has full legal custody of his wife.

“I did not want this to happen, however, I had no other option because they threatened to kill my parents if I did not obey. Therefore, they forcefully married me to a Muslim and converted me to Islam.

“Without my wish they changed my religion, my identity and even my name,” she said.

“My new husband, who continued to rape me for the next two months, then moved to another city. This man already had two wives at his house.”

Her new husband forced Komal to become a prostitute, which she described as “the worst agony of all”:

“I felt like dying every day… I had become a forced prostitute. He even hired a watch-woman to keep an eye on me almost round the clock.”

Throughout this, Komal said: “I had faith that Jesus would get me out of this hell.”

In February, the opportunity to escape arose.

“Before sun rise, I managed to sneak away from the house to an urban area after walking about five hours. I begged for money from the people there to cover a bus fare and was able to reach my home after sunset on the same day.

“I am thankful for this mercy and the miracle of rejoining my parents now. I couldn’t stop crying when I hugged my parents and family for the first time,” she said.

“One can hardly imagine the painful situation which I and my parents experienced. It was like rising from the dead.”

During her captivity, Komal became pregnant. “I am confused about what to do with my unborn baby. What will the future of my child be if I give birth to him or her?”

Komal’s story is not unique – there are as many as 700 Christian women and girls, often between 12-25, who are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam each year, according to research by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace.

“I want justice, but do not want to put my parents in danger,” Komal said.

“Those people are very rich and influential and therefore we cannot go into the legal process against them. I just want to be divorced and try to plan a happier life.”

 

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Mexico: Persecution Forces 30 Christians to Flee Their Homes

Armed villagers raided and destroyed the homes of Protestants in Leyva Velazques village, Chiapas, Mexico on 4 January in the latest example of religious persecution in the country, according to a human rights organisation.

Entrances into the village were blocked by locals forcing the Protestants to flee to the nearby mountains rather than seek help in a neighbouring village, Jorge Lee Galindo, Director of Impulso 18, told International Christian Concern (ICC).

Two men, the commissioner of the community, Jimenez Hernandez, and the municipal agent, Francisco Jimenez Santiz, are thought to be responsible for inciting the violence.

This is not an isolated incident in the village. According to ICC, seven Protestants were arbitrarily imprisoned when they refused to renounce their faith in December 2015.

Protestants are a minority religion in Mexico and “in the rural areas where we see persecution, many villages and their councils are dominated by adherents to syncretistic Catholicism,” ICC’s advocacy manager, Nathaniel Lance, told Christian Today.

Syncretistic Catholicism is a religion formed of components of Catholicism and indigenous beliefs and rituals.

The victims of persecution are “on the fringe of Mexican society”, Lance said.

“As non-Spanish speaking, rural, Protestant Christians, they have no access to the financial, legal, or political resources necessary to end the persecution they suffer.”

Persecution is likely to continue “as long as the Mexican government continues to ignore [it], and refuses to prosecute those responsible”, Lance added. He said the government is unlikely to engage with the persecution as “there is no political incentive to take action”.

Despite Mexico’s consitution protecting freedom of worship, the government uses the Law of Uses and Customs – which states that indigenous culture and customs should be protected – as an excuse not to act.

“They use this to say that the persecution in these areas are part of the indigenous culture,” Lance said.

“There is little media or governmental attention paid to these cases both internationally and in Mexico, which is why raising awareness of persecution is vital.”

ICC staff visited Mexico last year and conservatively estimated that there were over 70 open cases of religious persecution against minority Christian communities, with between 20 and 100 victims each, in the states of Chiapas, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero. This equates to thousands of victims and only represents incidents that have been reported.

The persecution often begins with “financial disagreements, where village leaders want the Protestants to pay for the religious festivals, and other things used for syncretistic Catholic rituals,” Lance said.

“When the Protestant Christians refuse to pay, these situations then escalate to attempted forced conversion, imprisonment, forced expulsion from homes, burning of houses and violent threats.”

It is important to note that the Protestant community is not the sole victim of persecution in Mexico. In 2014, more Catholic priests were killed in Mexico than anywhere else in the world, typically in cartel-related violence.

 

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