On Monday, February 20 Pakistan Masiha Millat Party and Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan organised a peaceful protest outside the Lahore Press Club against the forced conversion of a young Christian man, Raja Masih.
Addressing the protesters, PMMP president Liaqat Randhawa said that the religious communities living in Pakistan are being oppressed in the name of religion and don’t feel safe. He said minor girls continue to be kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam but recently it has been brought to their knowledge that young Christian boys are also being targeted.
Raja Masih from Mustafabad, Lalyani, near Lahore, is the latest victim of forced conversion, who escaped his employer’s detention after his forced conversion.
Raja was working in a grass market as a labourer, his employer Rasheed Ahmad was not paying him the agreed salary for the last three months, but when he insisted on being paid what he was due, Raja was asked to convert to Islam and then he would be paid. Raja refused several times but his employer started threatening to kill him and his family if he didn’t convert to Islam.
One day his employer took him to Kasur city where they forced him to sign a declaration saying he had converted to Islam of his own free will. This was done in the presence of a lawyer and a police officer to prove that he had willingly and voluntarily converted to Islam.
Raja said: “Later on, my employer Ahmad, Haji Akram, Nazir, and Abdul Rehman took me to an Islamic seminary for conversion.”
They asked him for his thumbprint at the gunpoint, he had no choice but to accept what they were asking him to do.
After having his thumbprint on the papers, he was told that was not Christian anymore, but a Muslim and his new Islamic name was Ali Raza.
According to Raja later on, they all went to Ahmad’s house, Raja was asked to stay overnight, but the “next morning when I woke up, there was no else was around, I decided to escape and somehow I reached my home Mustafabad”.
He added: “I told the whole story to my family, they all got scared and we decided to leave our house”.
The family contacted the chairman of the Masiha Millat party, Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, who assured his support to the family. He said unfortunately the government has failed to enforce labor laws, it is important that everyone is paid a fair and full amount for his/her labor without any delay or condition, but asking someone to change his or her religion to be paid for their salary is illegal and immoral. Because of a lack of accountability, employers very often take advantage and pay their employees low salaries, and sometimes don’t pay them at all and simply get rid of them.
He said it is the government’s responsibility to implement the law, to ensure daily wagers and employees are not taking advantage of and are paid a fair wage for their work.
Randhawa said the Pakistan Masiha Millat Party strongly condemns this incident and demands that Raja Masih and her family should be given protection and a case should be registered against Ahmad.
Aftab Iqbal said that after the incident of forced conversion of Raja Masih, Raja, and his family feel very insecure and have been forced to leave their home and stumble around. The Rt Revd Dr. M M Waqas said: “We request all Muslim scholars to take notice of this incident and provide security to Raja and his family.”
The Rt Revd Dr. Waqas, Pastor Asif and Pastor Khaliq Mukhtar also joined the protest in expressing concern about the growing cases of forced conversion.
Pastor Asif Feroze said that the government should provide protection to Raja Masih and his family, and arrest Rasheed Ahmad and his companions to prevent such incidents, and justice must be done to Raja Masih.