Conclusion after scandal and persecution

By June 17, 2011

Pakistan (MNN) — After a month of enduring kidnappings, torture, and persecution by the powerful Muslim Gujjar family and Pakistani police, the Masih family thinks their ordeal has finally been resolved, according to Compass Direct who have been following the case.

Sajih Ashraf Masih, a Christian man had eloped with Saleha Gujjar, a woman from an influential Muslim family in Pakistan. To prevent further retaliation by members of the Gujjar family who were angered by the elopement, Saleha was returned to her home and Sajih is in hiding with a divorce process underway. It is the only choice the couple has left after all the Masih family has suffered since they disappeared.

On May 13 after Sajih and Saleha fled their village 25 miles north of Lahore, the Gujjar family stormed the home of Christian Masih's. Several male family members of the Masih family and Sajih's sister, Rakhel, were kidnapped by the Gujjars who were hoping to find out the couple's whereabouts. The men were beaten and then released the next day. Rakhel was also beaten, but was held for five days before being released in exchange for her 17-year-old sister, Maryam. Maryam was taken by force.

Meanwhile, the Gujjars filed their case with the police saying that their daughter, Saleha, had been kidnapped. They named Rakhel and three others as a pressure tactic for the police to recover their daughter.

The police then arrested Rakhel and tortured her into giving the name of Community Development Initiative (CDI), the company that the Masihs had gone to for legal help. The police along with the Gujjars invaded the office of CDI and beat many of the Masih family members in the process.

"As soon as we got the information, we vacated the building to avoid any harm to our staff," said Asif Aqeel, executive director of CDI. "However, we didn't know that a heavy police contingent was also accompanying them. I rushed home, fearing that the Gujjars might want to harm my family, too."

According to Aqeel, several CDI lawyers tracked down the eloped couple, who by then had contracted a marriage, and convinced them to return and try to reconcile the situation. They negotiated the safe return of the Gujjar's daughter, Saleha, on the condition that they would stop harassing the Masih family and withdraw all cases against them.

"Rakhel's family says they are not being threatened now," Aqeel said. "No legal development has taken place, and the situation seems to have settled down by the grace of God."

Open Doors asks for prayer for the Masih family as they recover from the physical and mental distress of the last month. Please also pray for Sajid as he is still in hiding.

Pakistan is a country riddled with persecution cases against Christians. The political and justice systems are not in their favor, and many have suffered for the name of Christ. But the opportunity to be an encouragement to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is greater still. Through prayer and supporting organizations such as Open Doors, one can make a difference for God's Kingdom and advance the hope we have even in the face of dire circumstances.

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