Forced Conversion: The Predicament of Religious Minorities

Pakistan was formed in the name of religious freedom, liberty, and independence. As our ancestors once lived as a minority in pre-partitioned India, it would not be unreasonable to assume that we, as a newly formed majority at the time of the partition, would be more understanding to the minorities that now reside in our own state. Ironically, this has not been the case at all. In fact, our country is said to be the 9th worse state for minorities (MRG's Global Ranking of Peoples Under Threat (GRPUT), 2020). Our nation has placed several religious minorities in the worst of predicaments. From forced conversions and child marriages to the destruction of holy landmarks and temples, it has become hard to see any future for the ones unfortunate enough to follow a separate religion from Islam.

According to a 2014 report by Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP), around 1000 forced conversions occur annually. It was estimated that 700 of those converted were Christians, and 300 were Hindus (Ansari, 2014). Majority conversions such as these are often rendered by abducting young underage girls, usually in the age bracket of 13 to 18, and forcing and/or manipulating them into converting their religions. Often times after the forced conversion the young girls are married off to their abductors or influential religious men. The parents of these young girls are then refused any contact with their child, with the assumption that they might try to persuade their children to renounce their new religion and become an apostate, which in Islamic law, is considered a crime punishable by the death penalty. If the family of the victim attempts to report to the police, they are often met with corrupt officers under the influence of the same religious leaders or groups that sponsor the abduction. Almost no case reaches the court of justice, and the ones that do are often silenced by means of bribery and/or influence.

As a consequence of all the religious discrimination and oppression in our country, we see a steep decline in the minority population annually. It is estimated that approximately 5000 Hindus migrate out of Pakistan annually (Haider, 2014). Often time’s, people belonging to the minority population face indirect oppression by the community. It is rare to see a Hindu or Christian person acquiring a job of relative importance in our community. Majority of the jobs that are available for the minority groups are blue-collar jobs such as drivers, sweepers, house help, etc. In fact, it is estimated that the Christian population takes up about 80% of the sweeper jobs in the entire country (Zia ur-Rehman, Maria Abi-Habib, 2020). Most individuals from these communities are denied a quality education, well-paid jobs, and otherwise normal facilities. There is also the case of blatant disrespect by the overall population towards them and are often met by derogatory names and slurs, which they put up with for most of their lives. Based on the unjust persecution our minorities receive on a daily basis, it is mind-blowing that all of them haven’t fled this country yet. However, it wouldn’t take long for that to come true if this situation is allowed to unfold as it currently is. As a part of the majority group in this nation, I believe it is our duty to raise our voice for our fellow citizens and to make all efforts in securing the rights for all minority groups. After all, the only true way for us to progress as a nation is to be united in our endeavors.


References:

MRG's Global Ranking of Peoples Under Threat (GRPUT) (2020). Retrieved on 19 July 2020 from https://peoplesunderthreat.org/


Ansari, Emad (2014, April). Report on Forced marriages and forced conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan. Retrieved on 19 July, 2020 from Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP): https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/msp/pages/162/attachments/original/1396724215/MSP_Report_-_Forced_Marriages_and_Conversions_of_Christian_Women_in_Pakistan.pdf?1396724215

Gishkori, Zahid (2014, March 25) “95% of worship places put to commercial use: Survey” Retrieved on 19 July 2020 from The Express Tribune: https://tribune.com.pk/story/686952/95-of-worship-places-put-to-commercial-use-survey


Zia ur-Rehman, Maria Abi-Habib (2020, May 4), “Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply.” Retrieved on 19 July 2020, from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/world/asia/pakistan-christians-sweepers.html


Haider, Irfan (2014, May 13), “5000 Hindus migrating to India every year, NA told”. Retrieved on 19 July 2020 from Dawn Newspaper: https://www.dawn.com/news/1105830#:~:text=ISLAMABAD%3A%20A%20member%20of%20the,Pakistan%20to%20India%20every%20year.&text=Marri%20said%20that%20some%20political,as%20their%20%E2%80%9Cangry%20brothers.%E2%80%9D

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