An Indian bishop who launched a campaign seeking justice for an abducted Catholic girl in Pakistan has vowed to continue his efforts for other victims after the girl was reunited with her family.Auxiliary Bishop Jacob Muricken of Palai Diocese in the southern state of Kerala started an online campaign on Aug. 15 for 14-year-old Maira Shahbaz, who last week escaped from captivity. Her family has gone underground amid concerns about their safety.
"I am happy that she has finally reunited with her family," said the bishop, who plans to continue the campaign to create awareness about the abduction of Christian women and their forced marriage to Muslims in Pakistan.
"Our effort is to create awareness among global leaders to address this kind of the abduction of minorities and their torture," Bishop Murickan told UCA News on Sept. 1.
"Maira's case is only one among numerous instances of persecution of minorities across Pakistan. Media and political leaders, barring a few, are silent on such issues. And that encourages the criminals."
The online platform launched by the bishop wants to focus on atrocities against minorities.
"We have been praying for the safety or Maira and other girls like her who face persecution," Bishop Muricken said.
Some 1,000 women from religious minorities such as Christians and Hindus are abducted each year in Pakistan and forced to convert to Islam, published reports show.
Father Thomas Thayil, director of youth mission in Palai Diocese, is coordinating the campaign. He told UCA News that a special eight-day prayer started on Sept. 1, leading to the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Nativity on Sept. 8.
"We are also working among families and young people to create awareness and ensure their daughters' safety," Father Thayil told UCA News on Sept. 2.Since 2009, church officials in Kerala have been vocal about "love jihad" — an alleged scheme where Muslim men feign friendship to attract and convert young non-Muslim women to marry and use them for Islamic terror networks.
They cited several cases of missing Hindu and Christian women. Police investigated the complaints and, in 2012, after two years of investigation, declared them to be part of a "concerted campaign" with "no substance."
Some cases of forced marriages reported by media in Kerala have certain similarities to Maira's case.
In a video message, Maria said her abductors forced her to sign blank sheets of paper and later told her she had become a Muslim and the wife of Nakash Tariq, one of the four men who abducted her.
The abductors also threatened to kill her family and relatives if she complained.
However, following a complaint from her family, the district court in Faisalabad moved her to a shelter home. Tariq challenged that order in Lahore High Court, which ruled last month that the girl was legally married to Tariq and should live in his home as his wife.