Shackles of Faith: The Persecution of Rabia Saleem and the Struggle for Freedom in Pakistan

Farrukh Saif

January 23, 2024

Rescue The Persecuted - ECSPE

In the heart of the south of Punjab, Pakistan, a harrowing tale unfolded for 15-year-old Rabia Saleem, who became the victim of forced marriage. Her father, Saleem Masih, desperate to secure treatment for his ailing mother, borrowed 10,000 rupees. The little loans spiral into a debt of 700,000 PKR over the years.

A Cruel Ultimatum: And Forced Conversion

Amid their debt crisis, the Kiln owner, a merciless figure, saw an opportunity to exploit their vulnerability. Demanding that Saleem Maish and his family convert to Islam, he cunningly offered to forgive half of their debt. And full will be waved if he marries his daughter with his brother.

Saleem, a father of five, stood firm against these coercive tactics. Refusing to abandon his faith and unwilling to marry his young daughter to an elderly man, he faced a dire ultimatum. The Kiln owner, relentless in his pursuit of control, set a 10-day deadline for compliance, threatening to forcibly marry Rabia to his brother if they failed to yield.

Previously, Rabia and other girls in the kiln had been harassed and assaulted by Muhammad Jamil, the brother of the kiln owner.

Tragedy Unfolds: The Day Rabia was Taken

Days before the looming deadline, the oppressive grip of Muhammad Jamil tightened its hold on the Saleem family. A dark cloud descended upon their home as Muhammad Jamil, his brother Muhammad Tariq, and other men forcibly barged into the house of Saleem.

Their sinister intentions were clear as they seized Rabia, dragging her from her home to the dreaded office of the Kiln owner. Inside, a Muslim cleric stood ready to perform the solemnization of their union through Nikah, a wedding ceremony. The atmosphere was thick with tension and despair as Saleem Masih and his wife Nasreen pleaded desperately with the intruders to spare their daughter from this forced union.

The pleas of a distraught father and mother fell on deaf ears. Muhammad Jamil and his allies, wielding power and influence, were indifferent to the heart-wrenching pleas of the Saleem family. Saleem and Nasreen’s desperate cries for mercy were futile in the face of such coercion and brute force.

The described tragedy marked a grim reality, showcasing the systemic abuse of power and the vulnerability of persecuted Christians in Pakistan. The Saleem family, like many others, became victims of a pervasive injustice that robbed them of their agency and basic human rights.

As Rabia was led away to a forced marriage, the echoes of her family’s pleas lingered in the air, a haunting reminder of the injustices faced by religious minorities in the shadows of persecution.

The tale of Rabia Saleem and her family serves as a stark testament to the urgent need for international attention and intervention to address the systemic issues that perpetuate the persecution of religious minorities in regions like Pakistan. Only through collective awareness and advocacy can such stories find resolution and pave the way for a future where the oppressed are granted the freedom and dignity they deserve.

The Echoes of justice: A Struggle for Freedom

After that, they took Rabia, and Saleem Masih called the Emergency helpline of the police, saying that his daughter was forced into marriage with an elderly man. Meanwhile, he also contacted our team pastor and shared his plight. We had already been working on their rescue Mission and would need some time to execute our plan.

ECSPE (Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved ), our organization is dedicated to helping persecuted Christian families. So, we immediately pressured the police to produce the girl and hand her to the Parents. Within one hour, Rabia was handed over to the parents. Police warned them of any further threat to the family.

The same night, we were ready for our Swift action, which was imperative, and before the morning, ECSPE mobilized to rescue not only the Rabias family but also 11 other Christian families from this same Kiln.  All of them move to a different city, offering Rabia Saleem and others a chance to restart their lives free from the clutches of debt and persecution.

This tragic incident sheds light on a larger issue plaguing Pakistan, where countless Christian girls are forced into marriages and conversions every year. The pervasive assaults within the confines of brick kilns remain largely unaccounted for as these women and girls endure unimaginable suffering, treated as mere subjects in a system that exploits their vulnerability.

The story of Rabia Saleem and her family serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle for religious freedom and the need for organizations like ECSPE to intervene on behalf of persecuted Christians. In the face of adversity, there is hope that stories like Rabia’s can inspire change and raise awareness about the plight of persecuted Christian communities in Pakistan.

ECSPE-Christian persecution

Farrukh Saif

Farrukh H. Saif, a courageous Christian human rights activist, established the Farrukh Saif Foundation in 2009 to confront religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, and bonded slavery in Pakistan. His dedication to liberating bonded laborers from brick kilns and advocating for blasphemy victims and asylum seekers has garnered international acclaim. Despite encountering threats and fatwas, his impactful work persists in supporting marginalized communities. In 2018, the foundation merged with The Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved, enhancing its global outreach.


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