Skip to comments.Jubilee Campaign Trip 2004, Part III (Pakistan, persecution, muslims)
Posted on 01/24/2004 11:06:36 AM PST by miltonim
This installment will pretty well wrap up the latest Jubilee Campaign trip to Pakistan. Next week we'll examine the Congressional Delegation that we sponsored to India and our visit to the Christian orphans in the Maluku islands of Indonesia. But first, we want to tell you the stories of:
Please click here to read their stories.
You can read the initial reports of Zeeshan's harrowing plight here on the Jubilee Campaign website. But we wanted to share an excerpt of our personal interview with this remarkable young man:
On November 7, 2003, Zeeshan - a 15 year old Christian boy - was kidnapped and taken to a Muslim school (Madressa) where he was forced at gunpoint to convert to Islam. The Maulvis (fundamentalist Islamic leaders) at the school threatened that, if he did not convert, they would kill him, his mother and his younger brother. They beat him that day and, as it was Ramadan, made him fast.
At the Madressa they trained Zeeshan in the use of weapons, saying that they were preparing to send him to fight in Afghanistan. They had guards watching him at all times. They made him do exercises (sit-ups, push-ups, running) and taught him Arabic, the use of munitions, and how to kill.
Zeeshan's mother had been looking for him for three days before she finally learned that he was being held at the Madressa. He had been taken there by a Muslim electrician whom he'd befriended at a bus stop. The school leaders allowed him to call his mother but forced him to tell her that he had converted to Islam and would never see her again unless she and his younger brother converted also. [Zeeshan's father died when he was 5 years old].
The mother contacted a lawyer and tried to get Zeeshan back by court order; however, the judge - despite the law - said that Zeeshan was free to convert. Legally, a minor's statement is inadmissible in court and custody should be given to the parents.
On January 24, Zeeshan was allowed to visit his family unaccompanied in order to inform them that he would soon be bound for Afghanistan. Instead, Zeeshan, his mother and young brother fled. He had been warned by a kind Maulvi that to go to Afghanistan meant certain death. It may be that this Maulvi arranged for Zeeshan to be unguarded that day.
The family contacted the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance, and Settlement (CLAAS). CLAAS is now handling Zeeshan's case; however, the family must still remain in hiding for fear that he will be re-abducted. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for Christian boys to be kidnapped and forced to convert. Zeeshan reported that there were two such boys at his school and, at one point, the Maulvis even tried to kidnap his younger brother.
Zeeshan told us that he believes that God was with him the entire time and that his escape was nothing short of miraculous. Zeeshan loves cooking and studying technology and, in the future, would like to be a Station House Officer so that he can help others who are persecuted.
CLAAS founded and maintains Apna Ghar, or Our Home, a safe-house and shelter for Christian women. As our brief visit revealed, the women in this home are representative of the grievous issues facing minority women throughout Pakistan.:
Several of the women in the shelter were victims of rape. Adding insult to injury, some of these victims were forced to marry Muslims. Many rape victims are unable to seek justice due to the inequitable evidentiary requirements of the infamous Hadood Ordinances, which in the case of rape require two Muslim witnesses. If the woman cannot produce these witnesses, which often she cannot, she can be charged with fornication.
Though many of their stories are heart-wrenching, there are examples of hope. Many of the girls from the shelter home have successfully been remarried and are moving on with re-building their lives. Furthermore, there are Muslim lawyers and activists who have taken a strong interest in the plight of some of these women. For example, Muslims from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan regularly assist CLAAS in defending Christian women who are raped, abducted, or otherwise victimized.
In addition, though women and girls in rural villages are always extremely vulnerable to rape and abduction, and the Christian boys and men to other forms of abuse on account of the fact they are Christian and considered "sweepers" along the lines of the "untouchable" class in India -- yet, many Christian women have risen in Pakistan society to be teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and other professionals. Although not common, there are certainly glimmers of hope amongst moderate Muslims and in Pakistan that society could be changed by education or other reformation.
Jubilee Campaign supports CLAAS and the work they do in running the Apna Ghar house. As you can see from the picture above, we were delighted to finally get a chance to meet and visit with its current residents.
Robin, a 32 year old Christian man, worked 18 years at the Institute of Peace & Justice. But one day, everything went wrong.
At 9:30 in the morning, on September 25, 2002, masked gunmen entered the Institute's offices and executed seven staff members. They rounded them up into the library, tied them to chairs, knocked them out with ether, and shot them one-by-one in the head. But Robin survived. Instead of being drugged, Robin was pistol whipped; he fell backwards into a large bookshelf that subsequently collapsed on him. He was left for dead.
Robin was arrested by the police and held for 27 days - supposedly as a "material witness." However, the police spent that whole time torturing Robin, trying to get him to confess to murdering his fellow workers. The things they did to him are sick and can hardly be described. But this is often what passes for a police investigation.
CLAAS, upon learning of his plight, contacted a local lawyer in Karachi and took the case to court. However, at the court hearing, as Robin was escorted from the courtroom, the police attacked him and his lawyers (including Joseph Francis, the Director of CLAAS), and they dragged Robin away. The lawyers immediately ran back into court and decried the police brutality. The media also ran stories concerning the attack. Two hours later Robin was released.
However, the police continued to harass Robin, watching his house and following him wherever he went. As a result, Robin is now in hiding. His wife is with a Catholic convent and his two daughters and one son are in safe keeping at educational hostels.
Robin is still in fear that he will be killed because he was an eyewitness. The police torture has caused his memory to fail. He believes his life in danger in Pakistan, and he misses his wife and children during this separation.
CLAAS is handling Robin's current case against the police; and Jubilee Campaign is working with CLAAS to ensure that, once the legal matters are settled, Robin and his family are reunited in a safe third country.