More than 8,500 people have urged the UK government to grant asylum to a 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl who was abducted, raped, forced to convert to Islam and marry her abductor, and is now at risk of being killed for apostasy.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) launched a petition in late October calling for the UK to provide sanctuary to Maira Shahbaz, the Catholic girl at the heart of a lengthy legal battle following her kidnapping in April.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, ACN (UK), said: “It is a week to go until #RedWednesday and it is great to see so much support for Maira. Yet, we need even more people to see red about such terrible injustice and lend their voices to this vital campaign.
“Maira’s life is in grave danger. People have been going door to door looking for her. Extremists within Pakistan consider Maira an apostate and will kill her if they can.
“That is why we call on the UK government to grant her asylum so that she can be free of these constant threats to her life.”
ACN’s campaign follows threats to Maira’s life from her abductor Mohamad Nakash Tariq after she escaped his house in August.
Mr Nakash Tariq accuses Maira of apostasy after she reneged on her forced conversion to Islam – an act punishable by death according to some extremists in the country.
On 28th April, Maira was bundled into a car at gunpoint by three men, including Mr Nakash Tariq, close to her home in Madina Town, near Faisalabad.
Maira says they drugged her, and then filmed themselves raping her, which was used as blackmail against her to force her to marry Mr Nakash Tariq and convert to Islam.
Maira escaped Mr Nakash Tariq’s home following a controversial ruling by the Lahore High Court on 4th August, which ruled that she should remain with Mr Nakash Tariq.
Maira is now in hiding and the family’s lawyer, Sumera Shafique, wrote an open letter pleading for Maira’s asylum, saying: “Maira’s life is in constant danger because she is condemned as an apostate by her abductor and his supporters.
“Unless Maira and her family can leave Pakistan they will always be at risk of being killed.”
The bid for Maira’s asylum is a key part of this year’s #RedWednesday, which raises awareness of Christian persecution and other violations of religious freedom.
- To sign the Maira Shahbaz petition, pre-order the Set Your Captives Free report and attend the #RedWednesday event, visit acnuk.org/petition.