Another Christian in Pakistan has been murdered, and the local Catholic Church is calling her a “martyr of the faith.”
The 18-year-old Amariah Masih (also reported as Mariah Manisha), a Catholic girl from the village of Tehsil Samundari, near Faisalabad, in Punjab province, was shot dead on November 27, after putting up resistance when a Muslim man abducted her with the intent to rape her. Fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, General Vicar of the Catholic diocese of Faisalabad told Fides, the Catholic news agency, that “cases like these occur daily in Punjab. It is very sad; Christians, often girls, are helpless victims.”
The girl’s mother, Razia Bibi, 50, told the Catholic media outlet AsiaNews that she and her daughter were riding on a motorbike on their way to pick up drinking water, which is not available in their village, when a man seized the motorbike, grabbed the young woman, and tried to drag her away at gunpoint. As she tried to pull away, the man opened fire, killing her instantly. According to AsiaNews, the 28-year-old Muslim Arif Gujjar, the son of a wealthy local landowner, is in police custody for questioning for the murder of Amariah.
Amariah’s funeral was presided over by Fr. Zafal Iqbal, who said to Fides: “She is a martyr. . . . The girl resisted, she did not want to convert to Islam and she did not marry the man, who killed her for this.” He explained to AsiaNews: “Wealthy and influential landowners often take aim at those who are marginalized and vulnerable, for their dirty interests.” In Pakistan, a rape victim is often imprisoned for unlawful sex and released on the condition that she marry her rapist. Because, under sharia, a Muslim cannot be married to a Christian, the women in such cases are also forced to convert to Islam. In its sharia courts, the testimony of a Christian is worth less than that of a Muslim, and a Christian woman’s is worth less yet. The whole system is rigged against the Christian woman.
More information on Amariah can be found on the website of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, Ruqqiya Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced in Pakistan in late October to a 25-year prison term for blasphemy on accusations that she defiled a Koran after handling it with unclean hands. Mrs. Bibi is not to be confused with Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was convicted of blasphemy following a dispute with other Muslim women with whom she had been working as a field hand, and who remains imprisoned after being sentenced to death a year ago.
Pakistan’s minister of minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, also a Catholic, was murdered earlier this year, as was Punjab governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, for calling for the repeal of the nation’s blasphemy law. Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy law is notoriously vague and ever expanding to include new applications.
The BBC reported on November 17 that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has told mobile-phone companies to begin blocking text messages containing “obscene” and otherwise “offensive” words. The name “Jesus Christ” was listed among them.
The discriminatory blasphemy law, which protects only Islam, generally encourages targeted violence against Christians, as well as against Ahmadiyas, Hindus, non-Sunni Muslims, and Sunni Muslim dissidents.
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author, with Paul Marshall, of Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedoms Worldwide (Oxford University Press, November 2011).