Forced conversion to Islam fatal for Christian boy

Outrage at the death of a Catholic boy forced to convert to Islam at the hands of torturous abductors has prompted the Pakistan Catholic Bishop’s Commission of Justice and Peace, to take up the legal case. The Christian youth died of injuries inflicted by a teacher and students at an Islamic school. The National Commission for Justice and Peace declared May 4th that the incident reflects a worrying trend of forced conversions.

Javed Anjum, an 18-year-old commerce student was seized by a teacher and students of Jamia Hassan bin Almurtaza Madrasa (an Islamic religious school) on April 17th when he stopped for a drink of water at a nearby tap in Toba Tek Singh, 310 kilometres south of Islamabad. For five days he was tortured until his condition became so serious that the abusers took him to a police station, stating that he had been attempting to steal an electric water pump, and filed a charge of robbery against him. The boy was kept in police custody until April 24th, when he was finally taken for medical treatment. By that time, according to the Bishop’s Commission investigation, it was too late to save him. Anjum died May 2nd, in a nearby Faisalabad hospital, of “renal failure”, having also suffered broken ribs and loss of eyesight.

According to the Bishop’s Commission, police refused to investigate the cause of Anjum’s injuries, or the allegation against him. Chairman of the Commission, Peter Jacob said on May 7th that officials at the Islamic school tried to create an impression that Anjum was a drug addict, and now local Muslim political leaders are supporting and protecting the school. “It only shows how desperate and aware the perpetrators are of their crime and what they had done, that they tried through various allegations to cover it up.”

The Bishop’s Commission claimed, “Religious intolerance and discrimination is the reason behind the recent incidents where young non-Muslims were forcibly converted and circumcised.” In November another Pakistan Catholic boy, 15-year-old Zeeshan Gill, was abducted by a Muslim classmate and forced to convert. He was threatened and beaten by Islamic clerics and made to attend religious classes at Madrasa Jamia al Qasim al Aloom, an Islamic boarding school. He eventually escaped from his captors, but he and his mother and brother have since been in hiding for fear of death.

Beyond its concern for justice in Anjum’s case, the Church’s commission urged the government of the Punjab province to “take long-term steps to root out religious hatred and take timely action against the perpetrators of hate crimes in accordance with the law.”

“We appeal to the federal government to ensure equality of rights and opportunities, which is the only way to build a society based on justice, peace, and human rights,” the commission’s statement said.

The official teaching of Islam condemns forced conversions of others.