Christian Persecution Escalates in Pakistan as 12-Year-Old is Raped

A 12-year-old Christian girl was kidnapped and gang-raped by four Muslim men in Lahore, Pakistan, on Easter Day. Less than a week later, a Christian man in Jamshoro district was threatened by a mob following allegations of blasphemy, persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide has learned.

According to a report from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, Shaheena Masih was kidnapped at around 10am on 8 April as she was going to a shop. The rest of her family were at church, but Shaheena and her elderly father had stayed at home because he was unwell.

On her way to the shops, four men grabbed Shaheena and placed a handkerchief over her mouth. She fell unconscious, but when she woke up she found herself in a factory. The four men raped her, and then locked her in a room, CSW reports.

One of the rapists allegedly told his accomplices: "Don't hesitate to rape a Christian girl. Even if she dies, no one will get us. Her poor parents cannot pursue us."

According to APMA, while in the locked room Shaheena found a mobile phone lying on the floor, and called her brother. However, while she was talking to him, her kidnappers entered the room, seized the telephone and beat her very badly. She was then taken to a brothel, CSW explains.

Shaheena was rescued by Nishtar colony police officers after her family traced the mobile phone call and located the address of the owner. He confessed to the kidnap, and assisted the police in returning Shaheena to her family.

APMA claims she returned to her home two days after she was kidnapped, "bleeding profusely and in a pathetic condition". Shaheena was taken to Lahore General Hospital for a medical examination but the police refused to give her family the medical report.

The four men were arrested and the police registered a case against them under Article 496-A/376 of the Pakistan Penal Code. However, CSW has reported that the three were subsequently released and police are reportedly under pressure from the kidnappers not to pursue the case.

In a separate incident, Sattar Masih, aged 28, was charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws on 13 April 2007 after a piece of paper with his photograph and insulting words against the Prophet Mohammad in Urdu was allegedly found in the donation boxes outside the mosque in Kotri, Jamshoro district, following prayers.

A Muslim mob marched to Masih's home and threatened to kill him, but local police intervened and took him to the police station.

Masih has allegedly been tortured into offering a confession, CSW has said, and a case of blasphemy under Sections 295A and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code have been filed against him.

He told APMA: "How can I write this blasphemous note with my picture and name on it, when I know that the punishment for the blasphemer is death?"

Stuart Windsor, National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the rape of this 12 year old girl. We offer our deepest sympathies to Shaheena and her family, and we urge the Pakistani authorities to ensure that justice is done and the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice. The rape of a little girl is terrible in any circumstances, but it is made all the more horrifying by the fact that she was repeatedly gang-raped on Easter Day, a day which for Christians should be one of celebration.

"We are also deeply disappointed that the Blasphemy law is again being used to target religious minorities in Pakistan, We hope the Pakistani authorities will repeal these unjust laws, which require almost no evidence and therefore are wide open to abuse."