By BosNewsLife Asia Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- Muslims in Pakistan's Punjab province have threatened to kill a young woman as well as her husband, child and in-laws because she abandoned Islam and converted to Christianity, BosNewsLife learned Monday, April 1.
Maria Manzoor, 26, and her 27-year-old husband Emmanuel Ghulam Masih said they are hiding with their "beautiful one-year-old daughter" Yarusha Emmanuel after receiving death threats.
"We have shifted from one place to another even in the last week," the couple explained in remarks obtained by BosNewsLife. "We have changed the location of residence, but now we are tired. We fear for our lives."
Friends and pastors have been reluctant to provide them a shelter, amid security concerns.
Maria Manzoor said the threats come from her Muslim relatives and Islamist extremists. And, "I am told that my family is making threats to my husband's father to bring me back and hand me over to my family", she added.
The woman, who claims to have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior four years ago, said she is prepared to die for Him. "I have a strong faith in Jesus and have no fear of being killed for my faith. I would be proud to die for Him." However, "I am concerned about our little child," she added.
Additionally, Muslims have threatened to kill her husband and other relatives, confirmed their attorney Sardar Mushtaq Gill. "They have also threatened to kidnap her husband's sisters and kill the couple and other relatives," added Gill, director of the Pakistan-based advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).
The "hate campaign" emerged this year after Maria's Muslim family found out about her Christian conversion and that she visits a local church while being pregnant of a second child, said her father-in-law, Ghulam Masih.
The 58-year-old Masih told BosNewsLife in obtained remarks that he "received numerous threats of dire consequences" if he does not handover Maria to the Muslims.
Authorities in the city of Lahore, where the couple lived, haven't made live easier.
Maria Manzoor said an official responsible for national identity cards and birth certificates recently "used many abusing words" when asked to change her religion from Muslim to Christian in documents.
"She said this would never happen and asked many questions about my Christian marriage certificate. The officer and her colleagues also threatened my husband of dire consequences because of our marriage and my conversion from Islam to Christianity," she recalled.
"My husband and me ran away from NADRA Registration Center [in Peco Road Township of Lahore] for the safety of our lives."
LEAD's Gill said his group now tries to provide accommodation for the couple and other relatives threatened by Islamists.
He said the incidents confirm a wider trend in Pakistan. "Muslim society condemns their marriage and conversion which is, according to [the strict interpretation] of Islam punishable by death," Gill noted.
"Though the Constitution Of Pakistan...allows to profess and to accept any religion or faith" [or inter-religious marriages] "Muslim society does not accept a Muslim girl who marries someone from another religion, including Christianity," he told BosNewsLife.
"There are many examples in which couples lost their lives because of this reason."
Maria Manzoor said she had asked Christians "to pray" for them and support them morally or financially. "We are starving and in hiding here and fear for our lives."
Pakistan's government has said it wants to tackle Islamic extremism in the country.
It has been reluctant however to tackle controversial blasphemy legislation under which minority Christians and others have been detained. (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).