The Government of Sindh Province, southeastern Pakistan, has rejected a law that would punish forced conversions with a prison sentence of up to life imprisonment.
The bill was originally adopted unanimously by the provincial assembly last November, and welcomed by Pakistan’s religious minorities as a real breakthrough towards ensuring full freedom of belief and protection against forced conversions to Islam.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Christian and Hindu activists expressed “great regret” and see the rejection of the bill as a dangerous step backwards.
Forced conversion to Islam, especially of girls, is a real scourge among Pakistan’s eight million Hindus and Christians. According to a report by Asian Human Rights Commission, at least 1,000 Pakistani girls are forced into Muslim marriages and made to convert to Islam each year.
However, last week, the Sindh Governor rejected the Sindh Minorities Rights Commission Bill, under which, anyone convicted of forced conversion would have to serve at least five years, and up to life in prison.
In the case of minors, the law would have required that no person should be deemed to have changed his or her religion until they attained 18 years of age.
After the law’s initial adoption in November, Islamist parties criticised it as “anti-Islamic” and demanded its immediate repeal. It was also slammed as “an attempt to create unrest between Muslims and minorities.”
Thirteen lawmakers involved in drafting the bill, including three ministers, received death threats.
For Peter Jacob, a Catholic who heads the Centre for Social Justice, the rejection of the law goes against freedom of religion.
“We urge the Sindh Government to stay focused on social divisions,and we ask for the support of the Pakistan Peoples Party in government. Those protesting have neither studied their religion, nor the Constitution of Pakistan.” he said.
- Pray for Pakistan as it grapples with increasing Islamic fundamentalism and pressure against religious minorities, including Christians.
- Pray for wisdom for the Government in Pakistan, especially in the Sindh province. Pray that they will see the value of protecting religious minorities in their region.
- Pray for the girls who are forced into marriage each year, and forced to convert to Islam. Pray for their protection and for and end to this practice throughout Pakistan.
- Pray for Pakistan’s Christians, to have endurance and strength of faith and to be light and salt to their communities, that any will hear and come to know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.
1 Timothy 2 vs 1 – 2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.“
Source: http://www.asianews.it/news-en, http://www.persecution.org/2017