04/13/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Lahore: Christians and Hindus against "religious fascism" and forced conversions to Islam

by Jibran Khan
Young Christian and Hindu women are being abducted, forcibly converted and married off against their will. Young Christian men and boys are being forcibly circumcised. Young Hindu men are jailed for befriending young Muslim women. In the past five years, between 400 and 500 Christians have been forced to convert to Islam.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - "Several young Hindu women have been kidnapped from their homes in the dark of night, and dragged off to be forcibly converted to Islam. Usually, this conversion is accompanied by a signing of the nikahnama or marriage contract, which strengthens the kidnappers side of the story," said Dilip Kumar, a Hindu activist. The kidnappers want complete freedom to convert, but "We can't just sit back and watch what our community is going through," he added.

Yesterday, together with dozens of Hindus and Christians and representatives of human rights NGOs, Kumar took part in a demonstration against the forced conversion of young men and women and the government's slow response to what has been called "religious fascism".

"It is a shame that Christian and Hindu girls are kidnapped and forced to convert, in most cases they are latter sold in sex slavery / prostitution," said Fr John Mall. "This is becoming a hideous business and the authorities have kept a blind eye on the whole matter." He was referring in particular to the case of Rinkle Kumari, a young woman who was abducted, converted and forced to marry a Muslim.

"Appearing before the court, Rinkle said: 'Kill me but don't send me back to prison or to the person who converted me.' What did the Supreme Court? Instead of allowing her to meet her family, she was sent to jail for three weeks to think about converting to Islam. Had she said that she had converted, the court would have sent her to her husband."

"In the last five years, there have been up to 400 to 500 conversions of Christians," said Peter Jacob, national director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace. "And something equally horrifying: I know of forcible circumcision of young men in Punjab and one in Baluchistan. Where are we going, one asks?"

"Two months ago, a Muslim girl became friends with three Hindu boys. The Muslim family got the boys arrested and the Hindu families killed. This is barbarianism," activist Diyal Singh said.

In yesterday's rally, demonstrators also shouted slogans against Lahore's police chief, who recently appeared before a court in connection with the demolition of the Catholic-owned Gosh-e-Aman building.

One of the parties to a lawsuit against the police official is a Christian woman, Zenobia Richard, who accuses him of desecrating Bibles, a statue of Our Lady and rosaries.

The court ordered him to submit a report of the incident within three weeks.

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