A new case of gang rape against a Christian minor in Pakistan. The rape occurred in broad daylight, for hours, in a private home where three young Muslims – all under 30 – abused a defenseless girl. A story, Fr. Bonnie Mendes said: “the powerlessness of the poor in Pakistan,” which is reflected “in all its evidence in events such as the sexual abuse of Shumaila” which took place on September 20 last, but has only now been revealed by the press.
A story similar to that which occurred Sept. 4 – again in Faisalabad – when a 60 year old Muslim merchant has raped a Christian girl of 10. These episodes confirm the increase of attacks against children in Punjab, as evidenced by a survey carried out by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), covering the first five months of 2012, which documents 122 cases of violations in the province: among these, at least 40 sexual, 14 murders, 22 kidnappings, 14 corporal punishment, six forced marriages and 13 deaths due to lack of basic medical care.
Shumaila Masih, a native of Chak 226, Samundari, in the district of Faisalabad (Punjab), is the oldest of four children of a poor Christian family. On the morning of September 20 the girl was headed to the house of a wealthy Muslim, where her mother worked as a maid, to warn of sudden visit by some guests. On the way she met three young Muslims – Iftikhar Hussain 27, Shahid Munir and Muhammad Imran both 30 – who tried at first to persuade her to go with them.
At her refusal, the three took her by force and locked her up in the house of Iftikhar Hussain, taking turns raping her for hours. The attack took place at 11 am, in broad daylight, but no one intervened to save Shumaila, despite the desperate cries and pleas for help. At about 5 pm the father Manzoor Masih, along with two cousins, began searching for the girl when she failed to return home. Arriving close to the house where she was being held they heard her cries. At the sight of the men, the three young Muslims fled, leaving Shumaila naked and in pain on the bed.
Her father reported the incident to police who opened an investigation and arrested two of the three members of the pack. The last, Shahid Munir, is still at large and the police have launched searches to arrest him. Meanwhile, a medical report has confirmed the gang rape suffered by the girl, who is now a guest of the family of her uncle for security reasons. Shumaila has extensive physical and psychological injuries, as well as pain and injuries that prevent her from even walking.
The girl’s father Manzoor Masih, 45, swears that “despite our poverty, I will never reach a compromise settlement” with the rapists of his daughter. He hopes that these elements “are punished according to the law,” so that everybody understands that “it is not permissible to assault any young girl” just because you are rich or powerful. “These people are monsters – concludes the parent – and must be punished without mercy” -
Fr. Bonnie Mendes, former Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Church of Pakistan, also insists on the poverty factor, while stressing that the violence occurred “in broad daylight” at the hands of “rich young Muslims.” The young girl “continues to suffer” and does not get justice, “because of her poverty.”
As long as the lower segments of the population do not unite, the priest adds, “they can never aspire to social equality.” He thoughts are echoed by Fr. Khalid Rasheed Asi, vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad, according to who “religious minorities and marginalized groups are easy targets for wealthy landowners in rural areas.” “I personally know the victim – he adds – because I was pastor in that area, they are a very poor family, but rich in the Catholic faith. They deserve justice.”