In Pakistan, we are fighting a now seven-months-long court battle to defend the rights of a 3-year-old girl – the daughter of a Christian woman – who was brutally sexually assaulted by a Muslim man. All too often in Pakistan, horrific crimes against innocent young girls go unpunished because the criminals are Muslim and the victims come from underprivileged Christian families. We are battling these cases – to defend persecuted Christians – each and every day.
This is little Sahiba’s tragic story.
Our international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice’s (ECLJ) office in Pakistan, the Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), is working to secure justice for Sahiba alias Guria, a 3-year-old child who was brutally raped by a Muslim man in Pakistan. Catherine Bibi, Sahiba’s mother, turned to us in an effort to put the perpetrator behind bars. We are still fighting for justice seven months after the gruesome crime was committed. To make matters worse, the offender was a friend of Sahiba’s eldest brother.
Catherine, a Christian woman, has lived separately from her husband ever since he embraced Islam and married a Muslim woman. In an effort to provide for her three children, Catherine works as a janitor at a local hospital, and her eldest son, 20-year-old Altaf Masih, works as a rickshaw driver to help support the family.
On December 16, 2016, Muhammad Abbas, the 25-year-old perpetrator, asked to spend the night at Catherine’s home because it was too late to get a ride back to his village. Considering Abbas was a friend of her son, Catherine agreed and allowed Abbas to sleep in her sitting room. The next morning, Abbas left. Altaf dropped Catherine off at work, leaving Daud (Catherine’s 11-year-old son) and Sahiba at home. But Abbas came back.
When Catherine came home later that day, she found her children, Daud and Sahiba, terrified. Her little girl Sahiba was crying, covered in blood. Realizing that Sahiba was still bleeding, Catherine rushed her to the hospital. During this time, Abbas escaped.
Despite the hospital’s failure to initially cooperate, Catherine later had enough information to contact the District Coordination Officer (DCO) for assistance. After the medical tests indeed proved that Sahiba was viciously raped, the DCO called for Abbas’s arrest, which transpired within two hours. Though he originally denied raping Sahiba, Abbas later confessed and was arrested and sent to jail on January 10, 2017.
The first court hearing took place on February 24, 2017 after the crime was recorded at the City Chishtian Police Station as a violation of Section 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). On May 5, 2017, the Muslim defendant filed an application with the court alleging that his crime did not fall within the purview of the ATA and that Section 376 required that he be tried before an ordinary court. The court approved the application and sent the case to Bahawalnagar District and Sessions Judge. Over the course of the investigation, the police concluded that the defendant was guilty. However, seven months after the horrific incident, the case is still being tried, and we are waiting on DNA results.
Despite many delays, we are still fighting for justice – a conviction for this heinous crime – and we are praying for the healing of Sahiba’s body, mind, and spirit. We will continue to represent Sahiba and will update you as the case progresses.
Please continue to pray for the persecuted Church in Pakistan. These brutal cases of vile persecution are all too frequent. Christians deserve protection, and we are aggressively working on the ground in Pakistan to provide that much needed legal protection.
We’re mobilizing our offices worldwide and working in Congress to defend Christians. Support our work for the persecuted Church today.
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