By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian girl who is suffering from the coronavirus is in hiding after a court annulled her marriage with her Muslim kidnapper, trial observers told BosNewsLife.
Arzoo Raja, 13, was abducted from her family home on October 13 in the Railway Colony of the provincial capital Karachi after her parents went to work, said a police report.
She was reportedly forced to convert to Islam and marry her kidnapper despite her young age, according to court filings.
However, on November 5, a court-ordered that her age be determined and, in the interim, she be moved to a shelter, said advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC).
“When asked if she wanted to return to her home or the shelter, she replied neither. The court then ordered that she be returned to the shelter for her protection and education,” VOMC told BosNewsLife. “Only those whom Arzoo permits can visit her, but with certainty, not her kidnapper.”
Her captor, Syed Ali Azhar, was charged with sexual assault of a minor, trial observers added. The marriage officiant, two witnesses, and two lawyers have also been charged for their part in “solemnizing a child marriage,” VOMC added.
The courts also ruled that Arzoo is to stay in the state-run shelter until the age of 18 since she does not wish to return home, according to Christians familiar with the case.
The family’s lawyer believes the young girl is reluctant to come home due to the “consistent brainwashing” she had received from her kidnapper and several other community activists, VOMC added.
Human rights workers are reportedly concerned that without her parent’s moral support, she will face pressure from the family of her kidnapper and other militant Islamic activists.
VOMC said that “while we can be thankful for the court’s swift dealings with the perpetrators in Arzoo’s case,” prayers were needed. It urged supporters to pray “those similar decisions of justice be made in cases involving the kidnapping and marriage of minors throughout Pakistan’s judicial system.”
As this young teen now wrestles with the aftermath of her devastating situation, “may the Lord administer needed healing both emotionally and spiritually,” VOMC said. “Also pray for Arzoo’s physical healing, as she has recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is presented in isolation,” the group added.