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The Case of Farah Hatim
June 25, 2011
ASIA/PAKISTAN - An appeal on the case of Farah Hatim, the Catholic girl Islamized by force, will be presented to the UN
Geneva (Fides Service) - A detailed report on the case of Farah Hatim, the Catholic girl kidnapped and forcibly Islamized (see Fides 13/6/2011 and previous days), will be presented in the next few weeks at the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva: the pool of non-governmental
Organizations accredited to the UN Catholics confirm to Fides, that wish to report the case of abuse of human rights. The NGOs that have become active and the sponsors of the appeal are: "Dominicans for Justice and Peace" (an expression of the Dominican fathers); "Franciscans International" (an expression of the Franciscan Family), and "Pax Romana", founded by some U.S. Catholics. Once the report is complete and the official appeal to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is carried out, the NGO sponsors will try to expand the number of signatories, including other NGOs, Christians and non-Christians, giving greater force to the demand. When the report has been received, the High Commissioner must, by statute, open an official investigation. A positive opinion about the survey was given in recent days by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent Observer of the Holy See's UN office in Geneva (see Fides 06/15/2011)
"This is a way of bringing to surface and showing the international community a case of violation of human rights and personal freedom that is emblematic: we are following this case with great attention through direct sources" Morse Flores, Director of Programs for Asia Pacific nell'Ong "Franciscans International" explains to Fides.
Farah's case is one of about 700 cases which are officially registered each year, of girls kidnapped and converted, while many other cases remain hidden because they are not reported.
Meanwhile, Fides sources in Lahore report that Khalid Shaeen the politician of the Muslim League-N, who helped the young Muslim Zeehan Iliyas to kidnap Farah, and even hide her in his house, later resigned from public office (once his involvement in the case emerged) is habitual: he was already involved in other such cases, having previously kidnapped two Muslim girls.
Currently Farah's family is in Islamabad, under the protection of the Federal Ministry of Harmony and Minorities, which in turn have started an investigation by contacting the local authorities in Rahim Yar Khan (southern Punjab), where the kidnapping took place, to get in direct contact with the girl in order to ascertain the will. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 06/25/2011)
June 16, 2011
ASIA/PAKISTAN-Fear for Farah, Catholic girl drugged and forced to sign the conversion to Islam
Lahore (Fides Service) - There are fears for the life of Farah Hatim, the Catholic girl kidnapped and forced into marriage and conversion to Islam in the city of Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab (see Fides 08/06/2011 7 and ). As the girl`s family refer to Fides, Farah is constantly drugged and her life is in danger. Meanwhile, attempts to discourage the family to carry on with the request to free Farah are still in progress. Yesterday Qasim and Huma Hatim, the victim`s brother and sister, were summoned by the local police who showed them the marriage certificate, a declaration of conversion to Islam and a picture of Farah, in traditional Muslim clothes. The police concluded that "everything is in order", stressing the request to abandon all claims on behalf of the family. According to Huma and Qasim, the documents are obviously artifacts. The supposed signatures of Farah are in Urdu – they observe- while the girl used to sign in English. In the photo, moreover, the girl is totally veiled, "to hide the beatings", they said. "The police wants to convince us to forget Farah, but we will carry on" say the family members.
"It will be very difficult to win this battle and get the girl back", said His Excellency Mgr Lawrence Saldanha to Fides, Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore , and for several years President of the Episcopal Conference. "The law is not in our favor, and then there is a lot of pressure on Christians and public officials' he remarks. "It must be said that our Justice and Peace Commission document numerous cases like this. And many cases remain unsolved, because Christians are threatened and are afraid to expose themselves. These are blatant violations of human rights, freedom of conscience and religion".
As already reported in recent months to Fides (see Fides 13/4/2011) from local sources, forced conversions to Islam, rapes and forced marriages are increasing in Pakistan. The victims are mostly Hindu and Christian girls, the most vulnerable because they come from poor, defenseless, marginalized communities, therefore easily exposed to harassment, threats and violence. They often do not have the courage to denounce the assaults. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 09/06/2011)
June 13, 2011
ASIA/PAKISTAN-The Church committed to the liberation of Farah, the Catholic girl forced to convert to Islam
Multan (Agenzia Fides) - "The Catholic Church in Pakistan will do everything possible to free Farah and return her to her family": this is what His Exc. Mgr. Andrew Francis, Bishop of Multan tells Fides, the diocese involved in the case of Farah Hatim, Catholic girl kidnapped in the city of Rahim Yar Khan (southern Punjab), forced to marry a Muslim man and convert to Islam (see Fides 11/6/2011 and days before).
In recent days, pressure from civil society and the international community has grown and the Church of Pakistan begins to hope for the liberation of the girl: "The National Commission 'Justice and Peace' has been activated and will use all means at its disposal. We are also in contact with senior police officers to try to unblock this long-standing affair. I am confident in a positive solution. We have much confidence in God and in the fruits of our prayer", the Bishop of Multan confides to Fides.
The Commission for “Justice and Peace” of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan is completing its investigation on the case, which is emblematic of a widespread phenomenon: at least 700 Christian girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam every year. According to sources of Fides, the next step to define the case, is that the Church may bring a legal action to the High Court of Lahore, asking for respect for human rights and individual freedom of the young girl, who now lives segregated.
A court of first instance had already declared the case "closed" based on a written statement which says it was Farah`s will to marry and convert to Islam. The girl's family explains, however, that the statement was drawn under threats and torture. Moreover, as reported by Fides, some Christian NGOs accredited to the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva are following the case of Farah and intend to compile a report to submit to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 06/13/2011)
June 6, 2011
ASIA/PAKISTAN-"Truth and Justice" for Farah, Catholic girl, kidnapped and converted to Islam
Lahore (Fides Service) - "On the case of Farah Hatim, we are seeking truth and justice": this is what Paul Bhatti tells Fides, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the affairs of religious minorities and leader of the "All Pakistan Minorities Alliance", committed to the defense of religious minorities.
The story of Farah, 24 year old Catholic kidnapped and forced into an Islamic marriage (see Fides 13/5/2011, 6/7/2011) is currently being investigated by the National Commission for "Justice and Peace " at the Catholic Bishops` Conference in Pakistan. The investigation, reports the Commission to Fides, intends to establish the truth of the facts and produce a detailed report on the case, which will be submitted to the leadership of the Church and civil authorities.
Investigations are necessary given the different existing versions of the matter: the Muslim family where Farah is now insists that she has voluntarily left the family home. According to Fides sources, however, her case is a typical example of a Christian girl kidnapped and forcibly converted. " We record dozens ", says a Catholic nun to Fides, who works in Punjab.
Another Catholic source of Fides in Punjab states: "Kidnapping and converting Christian girls and other religious minorities appears to become a tactic to eliminate Christians and Hindus from Punjab. One should always report such cases in order to bring them to the attention of the international community. The most serious problems are impunity and collusion of the police force, as in the case of Farah, they refuse to prosecute offenders. This attitude acts as a multiplier of such criminal acts. "(PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/06/2011)
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