A leading Vatican diplomat said that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights should intervene in the case of Farah Hatim, a Christian girl in Pakistan whose family said she was kidnapped and forced to marry and convert to Islam.
Freedom of religion is “a test for the respect of all human rights,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
At least 700 Christian girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam every year, Fides reports.
Archbishop Tomasi called the alleged crime against Farah “a violation of human rights, freedom of conscience and religion, and abuse of personal freedom, freedom to choose how to live one’s life.”
No one can communicate with Farah at present, the archbishop said on June 15.
He suggested a mechanism be created for these situations to allow the family and state officials to investigate and determine the truth.
Archbishop Tomasi recommended that the U.N. Council for Human Rights create such a venue. Some U.N.-accredited Catholic NGOs are receiving direct information from Pakistan and are collecting data to present a report to the council.
“Solidarity with Christians who suffer for their faith … must be remembered,” Archbishop Tomasi said.
International mechanisms to protect persecuted people should be used and the “indifference” of Western media should be “shaken” because “they often do not report the discrimination that millions of believers suffer.”
Pakistan faces problems in the education system, problems of corruption and “widespread extremism,” he added.
The blasphemy law is also a problem. It is considered unjust by many people, including Muslims, and changing it is “a top priority” for the country’s Christian communities, who are often victims of false claims under the law.
The remedy for the situation is to make judicial structures available for all minorities, the archbishop recommended.
Archbishop Tomasi told Fides that the Holy See tries to “broaden the perspective” of the council and show that religion “is not a source of conflict but the basis of universal principles” that can help societies live in pluralism and build “brotherhood and peace.”
“With the reality of globalization today, all societies must confront each other. Social cohesion cannot be imposed by forcing people to stay inside oppressive patterns,” he said, endorsing freedom of religion and the right to change religion.
The archbishop expressed hope that the changes underway in North Africa and the Middle East will lead to greater openness and ensure “a more dignified and free life for everyone,” including the Christians of Pakistan.