ASIA / PAKISTAN – Age limit for religious conversion: the Ministry of Religious Affairs opposes it
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – The Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs does not intend to set age limits for religious conversion. As Fides learns, during a recent meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Minority Rights in the Senate, the Minister of Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq Qadri, declared that he did not support a restriction on conversion. nun before the age of 18. If anyone wants to change their religion before they reach the age of 18, that is their choice, he said, while marriage is another discussion. The issue of the minimum age for marriage has been referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology, an advisory body. However, as Christian organizations in Pakistan point out, the issue is closely linked to religious conversion. In a message sent to Agenzia Fides, Nasir Saeed, Director of the NGO “CLAAS” (Center for Legal Assistance and Establishment), explains that the cases of young Christian and Hindu girls forced to convert have increased considerably. over the past year. And he notes: “Given the overall scenario and given the current setting of a minimum age of 18 for conversion is crucial. I have personally encountered at least two dozen cases of forced conversion of young Christian girls in the Punjab, and 90% of the girls are under the age of sixteen. “According to the director of CLAAS,” often the police convert abduction cases into case of ‘religious conversion’ and then, instead of taking the necessary action against the kidnapper, they deliver a conversion certificate to the parents of the kidnapped girl, stating that the girl converted to Islam of her own free will, so he there is nothing they can do and everything is legal. “” In some cases the police even told parents that they must be happy because their daughter had converted to Islam. Even the courts Pakistanis do not generally do justice to the victims and their families either because, instead of deciding and enforcing the laws in the country, cases are decided on the basis of statements from the abducted girls. the laws s national and international and harm the whole country ”.
Faced with this scenario, “it is opportune and urgent that the government act in accordance with the recommendations of the Senate Committee on Minority Rights, setting the minimum age for religious conversion at 18,” said Nasir Saeed. According to leaders of Christian civil society in Pakistan, a measure limiting the age of religious conversion to 18 may be useful in curbing the phenomenon of kidnappings, conversions and marriages of Christian and Hindu girls. But the best way to tackle the root problem, they say, is to stop forced marriages by ensuring the application of a minimum age of 18 for marriage, in accordance with the law for the protection of women. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 7/21/2021)