GUJRANWALA, Pakistan — Muqadas Ashraf was just 16 when her parents married her off to a Chinese man who had come to Pakistan looking for a bride.
She is one of hundreds of poor Christian girls who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year, activists say. Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides.
Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither, according to several brides, their parents, an activist, pastors and government officials, all of whom spoke to The Associated Press. Once in China, the girls — most often married against their will — can find themselves isolated in remote rural regions, vulnerable to abuse, unable to communicate and reliant on a translation app even for a glass of water.
“This is human smuggling,” said Aslam Augustine, the human rights and minorities minister in Pakistan’s Punjab province, in an interview with the AP. “Greed is really responsible for these marriages … I have met with some of these girls and they are very poor.”
Augustine accused the Chinese government and its embassy in Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the practice by unquestioningly issuing visas and documents. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that, saying China has zero tolerance for illegal transnational marriage agencies.
Pakistan has risen to No.5 on this year's Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland shares about the most dangerous countries to be a Christian on the Persecuted Church.
Lord Jesus, please protect Christian women and girls at risk from abduction, rape, forced marriage and forced conversion to Islam. Please give Christians in Pakistan the courage to stand up for their faith and stand alongside others who are suffering. May Your gracious presence in the lives of Muslim-background believers be winsome to others.
AP Photo | K.M. Chaudary
AP Report | Kathy Gannon & Dake Kang
15 May 2019