Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Catholic girl from Karachi, Pakistan, was abducted on October 13, forced to abandon her faith and marry her 44-year-old Muslim abductor, Ali Azhar, who also resides in Karachi.
Last Saturday, October 24, a large group of Christians and civil society activists, led by two members of parliament, gathered in front of the Karachi Press Club to denounce the scourge of kidnappings, conversions and forced marriages of minors belonging to religious minorities, first and foremost the Christian minority. These crimes should be prosecuted under the 2014 Law on Limitation of Child Marriages, but its implementation was often obstructed by police and members of the judiciary.
The kidnapped teenage girl’s lawyer, Tabassum Yousaf, announced in an interview with ACN Italy (Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre), that she filed a petition today, October 26, 2020, with the High Court of Karachi (Sindh). The first hearing to consider the case is scheduled for Wednesday, October 28. According to local sources, several members of the kidnapper’s family are currently in detention.
“In the past, Aid to the Church in Need has funded and supported projects to cover the legal defence costs of Christians and to support their families, who are normally very poor and completely deprived of income. Now we will also support the legal aid provided to Arzoo Raja and help his family,” explains Regina Lynch, who heads the Project Section of ACN’s international work.
“We are very concerned about the situation in Pakistan. Religious minorities are very often left to fend for themselves due to lack of financial means and social support. There is progress at the national level, but it is important that the authorities in charge of the defence of the victims, i.e. the police forces and the judicial authorities, free themselves from the social pressure exerted by the most extremist groups,” concludes Mrs. Lynch.