Pakistan: Christian woman murdered for refusing to convert and marry

A MANHUNT is underway in Pakistan for a Muslim man accused of shooting dead a Christian woman who refused to marry him and convert to Islam. Sonia Bibi, 24, was reportedly shot dead at the Fazaia Colony bus stop in Rawalpindi, close to the capital, Islamabad.

Police are searching for Muhammad Shehzad, a Muslim, who allegedly shot Miss Bibi multiple times in the head. The man’s so-called accomplice, known as Faizan, has been taken into custody following the incident on Monday (30th November). Faizan is reported to have picked up Sonia on a motorbike and taken her to meet Mr Shehzad who then turned on the girl.

Sources close to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) say that, just days before her death, Miss Bibi and her family refused Mr Shehzad’s marriage proposal. Miss Bibi was a domestic cleaner and there is concern for the welfare of her family for whom she was the main breadwinner.

Sonia Bibi, 24 years old.
Sonia Bibi, 24 years old.

As well as her parents, Miss Bibi leaves behind four younger siblings – three sisters and a brother. The incident comes amid growing concerns about the safety of Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan, such as Maira Shahbaz, who has received death threats after escaping from a Muslim man who forced her to marry him and convert to Islam.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of ACN (UK) expressed shock at the killing. He said: “We extend our deepest condolences to Sonia’s parents who have tragically lost Sonia, their eldest daughter. Sonia’s killing demonstrates the mortal danger girls and young women – especially those from Christian and other minority backgrounds – face in situations where they are under pressure to marry and abandon their faith. It is urgent that action is taken to ensure the safety of these young people. We call upon those in authority in Pakistan and our own Government to act now. Otherwise there will only be more tragic cases such as this.”

Lahore-based human rights activist Sajid Christopher, from the Human Friends Organisation in Pakistan, told ACN: “The killing of Sonia Bibi is a terrible and horrific act. She was killed for declining the offer to convert and marry. I strongly condemn this act. My deepest condolences for the family of this innocent victim.”

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