By BosNewsLife Asia Service with a Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Pakistani police freed a Christian girl who was kidnapped and raped by five Muslim militants with the apparent support from “religious leaders”, but the suspects escaped, her family said Wednesday, June 16.
Cynthia Masih, 14, was abducted May 29 while traveling with another girl in a three-wheeled motorized ‘rickshaw’ in the city of Rawalpindi near Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, explained her father Lazarus Masih.
He said the five suspects, including three alleged drugs dealers, took his daughter to a house in a suburb of Islamabad “where they drugged and raped her”. The men — identified by police as Guddu, Kamran, Waqas, Adil and Ali — had earlier threatened him and his daughter, Lazarus Masih said.
“They told me that if Cynthia would not be allowed to marry Guddu, they would kill her,” he added. “They said they had attended an Islamic Religious Convention where the speaker told them that if they marry a non-Muslim or rape a non- Muslim girl, they would get 70 virgins in heaven.”
He said he and his wife began searching for Cynthia when they returned home from work in Rawalpindi’s Mohalla Raja Sultan neighborhood, early Sunday, May 29. “Cynthia wasn’t home and my two other daughters had no idea where she went because they were at school. We soon learned from my brother-in-law that he had witnessed five Muslims following a rickshaw carrying Cynthia.”
He said he informed local police, but security forces only freed his daughter after pressure from three Christian advocacy groups.
Officials from Ephlal Ministry, Life for All and Peace Pakistan pleaded with police to recover her, Lazarus Masih recalled. Law enforcement personnel eventually raided a home in Islamabad on June 6 and freed the girl, said Chief Police Officer Mazhar Hussain.
It was unclear when and if the escaped suspects would be detained. “This is a very sad incident,” Hussain stressed earlier in a statement, without elaborating.
Lazarus Masih told BosNewsLife he was still awaiting justice. “The Medical report shows that Cynthia was raped and given drugs. Now she frightened and is not speaking to anyone. Our whole family is devastated.”
Priest John Gill, who supports the family, expressed concern that at least some Islamic clergy apparently encourage abuse towards Christian women. “Is is such a shame that these religious leaders teach inhuman acts. This incident has ruined the life of an innocent child”.
Rights groups have suggested that this is the latest in a series of violent incidents against Christian women in Pakistan, a heavily Islamic nation.