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Arzoo (second from left)
Arzoo (second from the left) and her abductor, Syed Ali Azhar (far right), with police in Karachi, Pakistan.
Photo: Sindh government

In October 2020, Arzoo Raja was abducted from her family home in Pakistan, forced to convert to Islam, and then married against her will to the perpetrator of the crime – all this occurring when she was only at the age of 13. Her concerned Christian parents took legal action against her abductor and, ultimately, the courts nullified the young teen's marriage because of her age. However, due to the coercion and pressure she continued to receive from her kidnapper and others, Arzoo initially did not want to return home. So, instead, she was placed in a shelter. While any access to the attacker was forbidden, visits with her family and others were permitted only when requested by Arzoo. Previously posted information on this case is available here.

After spending a year at the shelter, Arzoo petitioned the court to allow her to move back into her family's home. On December 22nd, the Sindh High Court ruled that she could return to her parents. Any contact with her attacker, who has been charged under the country's marriage and rape laws, continues to be forbidden. However, the perpetrator had previously been released on bail and observers believe that the charges against him may likely be dropped.

The court ruling relates only to custody and not to Arzoo's alleged conversion to Islam. The teenager told the court that she converted to Islam of her own free will. Therefore, her parents were required to sign an agreement stating that Arzoo would be allowed to practise Islam without interference and that she is free to adopt her own life choices. The teen will be brought for meetings at the police station every three months until she turns eighteen to ensure that she is being treated well and in accordance with the court order.

The lawyer representing the teen's parents has stated that if, in the future, Arzoo wishes to return to the Christian faith of her family, she should legally be free to do so. However, depending on the court ruling, along with the reporting requirements, there are concerns that this legal option may not be made available to her.

Praise God that Arzoo has safely returned home and is now reunited with her loving family. Considering the trauma she was forced to endure, please continue to intercede for her physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Pray that Arzoo will triumphantly overcome the ordeal and no longer feel pressured by any former threats of her captor, so she can freely make decisions in her best interest. May God guide her parents as they seek to determine how to begin rebuilding their family in the face of this life-changing situation.

Current Ministry Projects

VOMC partners to train Christian women in sewing skills throughout Pakistan to provide a sustainable source of income for their families and encourage them in their faith and witness for Christ.

Project Funds: Families of Martyrs, Women’s Ministry

Country Information

Population
233,500,636 (July 2020 est.)

Ethnicity (%)
Punjabi (44.7), Pashtun [Pathan] (15.4), Sindhi (14.1), Sariaki (8.4), Muhajirs (7.6), Balochi (3.6), other (6.3)

Religion (%)
Islam (96.4), Other - Christian and Hindu (3.6)

Leader
President Arif Alvi

Government type
Federal parliamentary republic

Legal system
Common law system with Islamic law influence

Source: CIA World Factbook

Pray for Pakistan

Pray that amendments will be made to Pakistan's existing blasphemy laws so that the country's citizens – including its children – will be protected from injustice and abuse. May our Lord's mercy and justice prevail, not only in the judiciary system but also in the hearts of the country's militants. Ask Him to transform their "hearts of stone" into hearts that are receptive to His love, mercy and the workings of His Holy Spirit – not only for the purpose of protecting the Christian minority but also for the salvation of their own eternal souls.

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