You might know that Hindu and Christian girls are forced to convert but here is how serious the problem is.
Pakistan in the years of its growth has identified itself as a country which provides a safe haven to the minorities. The aim was always to make a plural society which gives people from different backgrounds the space to lead life as they please.
However let’s break the bubble to see how we force our minorities to convert to a belief we hold dear
Pakistan has a significant number of minorities residing in various parts of the country. Hindus, Christians, Ahmedis, Baha’is, Sikhs, Parsis, and Buddhists. Each group of people constitute a significant portion of the population. Back in the earlier days of Pakistan, there was a significant Jewish population as well but they eventually fled the country due to the constant threat to their existence in the country.
Pakistanis like to believe that the minority groups in the country are leading exemplary lives
This means shutting off their eyes to the daily injustices that they have to put up with, the constant belittling based on the difference of belief and the subhuman treatment that they endure every day. For this piece, we are going to focus solely on the instances of forced conversion in the country.
Forced conversion is when a person adopts another faith due to the coercion
People who are forced to convert do not necessarily hold the beliefs that they are forcibly pushed to adhere to. They may do so for the sake of outwardly show but may stick to their own beliefs because that is what they originally believe in. So many of the converts who adopt a new belief may only do so only because of the pressure on them.
Let’s have a look at the cases of forced conversion which pop up almost every other day
The network of inter faith harmony that we wished to build is crumbling because areas inhabited by minorities are being specifically targeted
This is especially true for the Hindu and Christian population. It is no secret that Sindh has become a hub for forced conversions. Young girls are kidnapped, converted and eloped. Distressed parents reach out to the authorities for help and even if they manage to find these girls, it is very rare that they return to their families. Most of them state, even in court, that they willingly left their families due to love and converted out of their own will.
However girls as young as 12 are not able to comprehend the notions of love. Mostly the case is that they are forced to give such statements by threatening them of dire consequences. Many over the years have been seen protesting this gruesome conversion.
In a report released by the Movement for Peace and Solidarity, around 1000 christian girls are forced to convert to Pakistan every year
The ratio is still lesser in Hindu girls, which average around 300. However one cannot forgo the fact that these are only the cases that are reported. Many go unreported and unaccounted for. The age bracket for the girls that are abducted and converted is around 12 to 25 years old.
The parents register a first information report (FIR) at a local police station. This FIR claims that their daughter has been abducted and forcibly converted. The abductor files a counter FIR on behalf of the young girl claiming that she willingly converted and the parents are trying/conspiring to convert the girl back to the religion she believed in.
The girls who are abducted are subjected to violence and rape
Forced prostitution, human trafficking and domestic abuse can also become their fate. Back in November 2016, the Sindh Assembly decided to take action against these disappearances and forced conversions because the problem is concentrated in the province. However, the problem was that before the bill could be signed into a law; many religious groups threatened to cause agitation if it became a law. The proposition in the bill was to not recognize the conversion of people who are underage till they reach an age at which they can make an informed decision.
However, that did not set well with the religious groups because they believe conversion is a noble act. What they fail to understand is that coercing people into believing something does not actually mean that they believe in it. They might do something out of fear but that does not mean that they actually connect with the idea.
People who come across these instances make it a point to protest
Gen. Bajwa visits operation area in Pano Akil in Sukkur. First row, third person on Army chief's right is the notorious Pir of Dargah Bharchundi Sharif, Mian Mitho, who's involved in several forced conversion cases of Hindu girls in Sindh. pic.twitter.com/uBkI2ZnvBF
— Naila Inayat (@nailainayat) March 11, 2018
One of the reasons for #Islam to spread was the excellent character of Prophet Muhammad(sa) but Mullahs in #Pakistan promoting forced conversion. A #Christian girl #Asma Yaqoob died of acid attack after she refused to convert. Earlier a local cleric also asked ppl to punish her. pic.twitter.com/swWP0273nN
— Shaan (@Shanyousaf6) April 22, 2018
Such conversions are making life difficult for the minorities in Pakistan
No one should have to go through this in their own country because the constitution guarantees the space to practice their own religion.
cover image via theatlantic.com