An influential Muslim family in a village about 25 miles north of Lahore is holding a 17-year-old Christian girl hostage because one of her brothers allegedly eloped with a woman from the Muslim family. The Muslim parents have threatened further retaliation against the Christian family if they do not produce their daughter, and have threatened to publicly shoot their daughter dead as an “honor killing.”
Abid Masih told Compass News by telephone that his family had been asleep in their home on Friday night (May 13) when armed Muslims belonging to the village’s influential Gujjar family arrived at their doorstep. “When I opened the door, the men told me that my younger brother, Sajid, had eloped with a girl from their family, and they had come to search for them,” Masih said. He tried to convince them that the family did not know of Sajid’s whereabouts, as he had not been home for two days.
The attackers took Masih, his sister Rakhel, an uncle and a cousin to their house and beat them throughout the night in an effort to disclose the couple’s whereabouts. Masih said that on Saturday (May 14), the Gujjars freed the three Christian men but kept Rakhel hostage in their home. On Tuesday (May 17), they released Rakhel but then forcibly took her 17-year-old sister Maryam.
“They have warned us that if we approach the police, they will turn the issue into a religious matter” Masih said. An area clergyman identified only as Father Emmanuel called the situation “critical,” saying it has pitted the area’s 1,800 Muslim families against its 70-to-100 Christian families and could lead to violence. Emmanuel, who has long ministered in the area, said he was attempting to help reduce tensions. “We are trying to talk to local Muslim leaders to convince the Gujjars that it was an individual’s action, and they should not vent their anger at the innocent family, but it seems an uphill task at the moment,” he said. “It’s always been like this. No one objects when a Christian girl is forcibly taken or dishonored by a Muslim man, but when a Muslim girl falls in love with a Christian boy it becomes a matter of their honor,” he said. The Muslim woman who allegedly eloped with Sajid was identified as Saleha; both are in their early 20s.
Father, we pray specifically for Maryam’s release as a hostage, as well as the tension between Muslims and Christians in Pakistan to cease. We pray that this situation does not evolve into a religious issue, and for the leaders to understand that this was an individual’s action and the family should not be blamed. Please reveal Yourself to all people involved, and may the Christian families be unified as one body through this chaotic time. Amen
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