Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Khurram Naveed and his family have been on the run since he married a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity.
“Since we got married we have had to change places many times,” he explained. “Wherever we go, people ask about my beloved wife’s conversion. Sometimes, imams try to force us to convert to Islam, issuing terrible threats.”
“My wife, I and our children have had to flee from place to place. We feel threated as soon as people find out about by wife’s Muslim past. However, running from one place to another is not easy. There are so many problems.”
“Until now I have to change job six times,” he noted, “and finding new employment is not easy. But we need security for our life and we ask for help from the people of God.”
Their odyssey began when Khurram Naveed, a 33-year-old Christian man, and Sobia, 25, daughter of Muhammad Riaz, a resident of Jameel Park in Faisalabad, started to teach at ‘The Light Christian Primary School in 2009.
Since it was Christian schools, students and staff could take Bible courses. Sobia joined some Christians in one such courses and eventually was drawn to the Gospels and their teachings. She began reading the Bible and decided to embrace the Christian faith.
In order to share her impressions about Christianity and get some help to move towards it, Sobia asked for the help of another teacher, Khurram Naveed, who talked to a clergyman about the situation.
After several discussions with Sobia, and seeing that she was fully consenting in her belief, the pastor decided to baptise her when she reached the age of maturity at 21. Baptised on 9 January 2010, she took a new, Christian name, Mariam (Mary).
After conversion, she wanted to marry the young Christian man. On 20 April 2010, Khurram Naveed and Mariam eloped under Articles 32 and 54, section 9, of the Christian Marriage Act.
However, after their marriage, they could no longer live in Jameel Park. So, the couple fled to Farooqabad, a suburb of Faisalabad, where they were able to start their married life.
All went well for three years, until Mariam’s parents found their address in April 2015. The family did not go after them directly, but stirred the couple’s Muslim neighbours. They began to say that Mariam was Muslim, who had been kidnapped and converted by Khurram Naveed.
Neighbours continued to challenge the couple’s religion until some imam ordered them to convert to Islam or suffer the consequences.
After a few days, the Christian couple had to flee to another secret place, but Mariam’s parents found them again. And so they had to flee again, to another city, because they felt unsafe whenever people found out about their past. At present, they are hiding out at a secret place, along with their two daughters, Ramia, 4, and Eman, 2.
"Although the school was doing well and was highly respected, it was impossible to keep it open in the city after Sobia’s conversion,” said Rev Mukhtar Fazal, owner of ‘The Light Christian Primary School’. “I had to sell the building at half of its market value. My business was ruined even though I was not directly involved in the affair.”
“I pray for this Christian couple that they might find some quiet in our society. However, I hope that some Christians in the world might help them find some peace of mind. For me the only way out is for them to move to another country."
Mariam spoke to AsiaNews about the difficulties of being Christian in Pakistan. "I became a Christian more than five years ago, but I still do not have my Christian identity card, as well as other papers,” she explained.
“If I go to some government office and ask for papers marked with my new faith, I could be threatened for converting to Christianity. Still, having the papers is crucial. Without them, we cannot enrol our daughters in school.”
“Since I am still registered as a Muslim, we are open to threats. I really hope someone will help us because it is now impossible to lead a free life. In any event, despite all these problems, we remain firm in our faith following the teaching of the Lord Jesus until the last breath,” she said. “I accepted Him in my heart and shall not go back."