This is what life is like in our secular ally Pakistan for one member of that nation’s Christian minority. This report is from Compass Direct:
A Pakistani Christian teenager kidnapped for more than two weeks in November has been forced to flee his home and stay in hiding to avoid recapture by his Muslim extremist captors.
Leaders of a fanatic Islamic school have vowed to send Zeeshan Gill, who just turned 16 last week, to fight in Kashmir as a newly-converted Muslim jihadi (holy warrior).
Zeeshan Gill was abducted November 7 on his way home from his classes at Garrison Cadet School in Sargodha, in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The boy was duped into accompanying a Muslim acquaintance, an electrician named Amjad Warriach who had done occasional work in his family’s home.
Warriach took Gill to the Jamia al Qasim al Aloom “madressa,” an Islamic school attached to a local mosque. Kept there under guard, the boy was forced to recite the “Kalima” (Islamic creed), perform Muslim ablutions and prayers five times a day, and observe daily fasting for the month of Ramadan then in progress.
The boy was beaten and threatened by his captors, who declared that since he had become a Muslim, they would kill him if he tried to run away or convert back to Christianity. Under the tenets of Islam, simply reciting the faith’s creed makes one a Muslim, and anyone who renounces Islam must be killed.
Gill was also given weapons training in the use of guns, pistols and grenades, and told that soon he would be sent to fight in the Muslim “holy war” in Kashmir. Hundreds of Pakistan’s militant Islamist groups — now banned by the government — have been embroiled in the violent dispute over India-administered Kashmir, a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for 15 years.
After three days of searching, Gill’s widowed mother finally learned that her missing son was being held at the Jamia Mosque, where mosque leaders claimed he had “embraced Islam.” A medical technician at Sargodha’s Civil Hospital, Razia Gill has been supporting her two sons and their elderly grandmother since her husband’s death nearly 12 years ago.
After Mrs. Gill contacted a lawyer, a bailiff from the Sargodha District and Sessions Court went together with a local police officer to meet Zeeshan at the madressa. In the presence of his captors, the boy simply said that he had become a Muslim, and that he did not want to go back to his mother.
The bailiff demanded a subsequent court summons on November 14, when madressa leader Maulvi Sohail was ordered to appear with the boy. Before Judge Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmad, the boy reiterated that he had converted to Islam of his own free will, stating that he would return to his mother only if she also became a Muslim.
Although Mrs. Gill asked the judge to allow her to meet with Zeeshan privately, the judge refused, declaring that her son was a “sensible boy,” and even though he was a minor, he “had the right” to convert to another religion.
The laws of Pakistan do not include any provisions regarding religious conversion, although under the Minors Act, children remain minors under their parents’ legal authority until age 18.
On November 20, the madressa leaders sent Zeeshan with a Muslim bodyguard back to his house, where he was told to collect his clothes. Four days later, he was told he was to report for final training at Raiwand’s large Islamic center and then be sent to Kashmir, where he would be expected to “spread Islam at the speed of 120 kilometers [70 miles] per hour.” Before his departure for Kashmir, he was allowed to return home once again — alone this time — to say goodbye to his family.
The unaccompanied visit enabled Zeeshan to finally tell his mother exactly what had happened to him, and the plans to send him to Kashmir. She immediately gathered up both her sons and fled the city, taking shelter with relatives miles away. A church leader there heard of the family’s plight and put Mrs. Gill in touch with the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid and Assistance Settlement (CLAAS) to get legal counsel and a secure hiding place for Zeeshan.
According to CLAAS coordinator Joseph Francis, the Gill family’s dilemma is not unusual among Pakistan’s tiny Christian minority. But the Gills are particularly vulnerable, he noted, since they have no male elder in the family, making it easier for extremists to intimidate the boy and his mother.
CLAAS lawyers have represented a similar case in which the provincial High Court intervened. In this case, the captors who insisted a minor boy had “converted to Islam” were ordered by the court to release him back to his Christian family.
“Afterwards his abductors again kidnapped him and had him sent to Kashmir,” Francis told Compass, “and now no one knows about that child’s whereabouts.”
“There is nothing we can do legally,” CLAAS Coordinator Joseph Francis told Compass this week. “Zeeshan’s mother and little brother Numan have returned to Sargodha, but he must stay apart from them in hiding.”