A 15-year-old Christian girl was recently kidnapped by a group of Muslim men in Pakistan who forced her to convert to Islam and marry one of her captors, a disturbing new report has revealed.
According to ucanews.com, Saima Bibi was kidnapped in the village in the Kasur district of Pakistan -- the same village where a Christian couple was burned alive in November 2014 after a false allegation of desecration of the Quran.
"We have been told that she has married after converting to Islam with a Muslim man Tanvir, her kidnapper," her brother, Riaz Masih, told the news outlet. "My sister ... is 15 years old. We have her birth certificate, which will be produced before the court."
A police case has been lodged against the kidnappers with police in Kasur, and Saima's family hopes providing a birth certificate that verifies her age will prove useful in the case, as the legal marriage age in Pakistan is 16.
However, the police have already confirmed that Saima converted to Islam and officials have documents proving the marriage, and such complaints are often countered by the abductors.
"We will produce the couple before a local court, where the girl can testify whether she was kidnapped or willingly married the Muslim man," police officer Noor Ahmed said.
Father Joseph Louis, the executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan, called the abduction an attack on religious freedom. "This is unacceptable, we totally condemn this," he said. "We demand that courts give justice to the affected family."
Pakistan, the world's second largest Muslim country, is ranked #6 on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians, and has received the maximum score in the violence category.
"The level of pressure is high in all spheres of life and persecution is driven mainly by radical Islamic groups, rather than the government," reads the report.
According to the Movement for Solidarity and Peace, a research, education and advocacy group, 700 non-Muslim girls are converted to Islam each year in Pakistan.
Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Christian lawyer and head of Legal Evangelical Association Development, told ucanews.com that it is common in cases like this for perpetrators to take a plea of marriage and conversion to Islam to "save themselves from criminal charges of rape and kidnapping."
Pakistan also enforces harsh blasphemy laws; according to BBC News, "scores" of Christians have been found guilty of desecrating the Koran or of blasphemy since 1990.
The offense, which often carries life in prison or the death penalty as punishment, has been widely used to target religious minorities, which account for 50 percent of those accused of blasphemy.
In light of these shocking human abuses, Open Doors has created a petition urging President Obama to prioritize religious freedom in several high-ranking World Watch List countries -- including Pakistan -- where persecution against Christians is most severe.
Reads the petition, in part, "Mr. President, I ask that you urge the Pakistani government to repeal the notorious blasphemy laws that are often used by extremists to terrorize Christians and others minority groups, and to urge protection of Christian women and girls who are often the targets of violence."