Pakistani weddings are extravagant affairs. Guestlists are filled with hundreds of names of relatives and friends. People come from various cities and even abroad for colourful celebrations filled with music and dancing. Often, brides’ homes are so packed with relatives that there is hardly room to move.
About a month or so before the wedding, smaller events take place at the homes of both the bride and groom. Friends and family begin to choreograph wedding dances and wedding songs to the rhythm of the dholak, a two headed hand drum.
A few days prior to the wedding, the Mayun takes place. This marks the start of the husband and wife-to-be being separated from each other until the day of the wedding, with brides beautifying themselves by refraining from wearing anything on their faces and undergoing herbal skin treatments to improve their complexion.
None of this occurred in the case of Arzoo Raja. In fact, this young Christian’s so-called ‘marriage’ is essentially a crime, because Arzoo was abducted on 13 October 2020 from the street outside her home in Karachi Railway Colony, Sindh Province, and forced to convert and to ‘marry’ a man more than twice her age. Under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, the legal age for marriage is 18, and being a child of 13, she was in no position to consent or escape.
Continue reading “‘This should never have happened to her’ – the story of Arzoo Raja”
On 8 August, the state governor of Nigeria’s Borno State confirmed that Ruth Ngladar Pogu, one of around 276 girls infamously abducted from their school in Chibok, was free.
Ms Ngladar is the 108th Chibok Girl to regain some form of freedom. Several are thought to have died whilst in captivity, with an estimated 111 reported to still be in the hands of the now amalgamated terrorist group.
Continue reading “Ruth Ngladar Pogu’s release is welcome, but the man with her is not her ‘husband’”
Ms Ngladar had reportedly surrendered herself to the military alongside one of her captors and two children she had given birth to while in captivity at the end of July, and while her freedom after over seven years is good news, the challenges that lie ahead of her and her family remain extensive.
On 13 February 2017 Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted in broad daylight. He was on his way to see a friend when he was kidnapped from his car by 15 men in three black SUVs and four other vehicles in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Video footage of the incident, as well as eyewitness reports, appears to indicate that the men were professionally trained.
The abduction incident is infamously known as ‘7-15-40’; seven vehicles, 15 professional men and the whole process took just 40 seconds.
In 2018, I met his wife and son in Kuala Lumpur. The two of them have consistently called for answers regarding the pastor’s whereabouts, but today, over four years since his abduction, these answers remain elusive.
Continue reading “Four years, no answers: The disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh”
Un líder religioso y su colega son secuestrados de un refugio para inmigrantes; no se los ha vuelto a ver ni se ha sabido de ellos desde entonces. Otro es agredido, extorsionado y amenazado a punta de pistola. Ambos brindaron protección a inmigrantes y solicitantes de asilo que se encontraban atrapados en la frontera. En el mismo país, los líderes religiosos advierten que las amenazas y los ataques contra ellos constituyen uno de los problemas más graves que enfrentan las iglesias en la actualidad. Irónicamente, todo esto está ocurriendo en lo que se considera uno de los países más religiosos del mundo, México.
El deterioro de la situación para los inmigrantes y solicitantes de asilo que pasan por México se ha visto exacerbado por la implementación del Protocolo de Protección al Migrante (MPP) de los Estados Unidos, también conocido como “Permanecer en México” a principios de 2019.  La política ha dificultado cada vez más que los inmigrantes ganen casos de asilo en los EE.UU., sólo el 0.1% de los casos han tenido éxito y muchos han buscado asilo en refugios para inmigrantes administrados por la iglesia en todo México mientras esperan, especialmente en la frontera norte. El 28 de febrero de 2020, un tribunal de apelaciones federal de EE.UU. dictaminó que la política de “Permanecer en México” era ilegal.
Continue reading “Seguir los mandatos bíblicos acarrea un alto precio para los líderes religiosos en México”
Si bien muchos líderes protestantes y católicos han respondido a los crecientes niveles de necesidad en una manifestación de su fe siguiendo los mandatos de ayudar a los pobres,  albergar a los desamparados  y amar al extranjero , su trabajo los deja cada vez más expuestos a amenazas y ataques de grupos delictivos organizados que se aprovechan de la población migrante vulnerable.
A religious leader and his colleague are kidnapped from a migrant shelter; they have not been seen or heard from since. Another is assaulted, extorted and threatened at gunpoint. Both provided protection to migrants and asylum seekers trapped on the border. In the same country, religious leaders warn that threats and attacks against them constitute one of the most serious problems facing churches today. Ironically, all this is taking place in what is considered to be one of the most religious countries in the world, Mexico.
The worsening situation for migrants and asylum seekers passing through Mexico has been exacerbated by the implementation of the US’ Migrant Protection Program (MPP) also known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ at the start of 2019. The policy has made it increasingly difficult for migrants to win asylum cases in the US, only 0.1% of cases have been successful, and many have sought refuge in church-run migrant shelters across Mexico while they wait, especially at the northern border. On 28 February 2020, a US federal appeals court ruled that that the Remain in Mexico policy was illegal.
Continue reading “Following Biblical mandates carries a high price for religious leaders in Mexico”
While many Protestant and Catholic leaders have responded to the rising levels of need in an outworking of their faith by following commands to help the poor, shelter the homeless, and love the foreigner, their work makes them increasingly exposed to threats and attacks from organised criminal groups who prey on the vulnerable migrant population.