A Healing Journey Ahead for Arzoo Raja

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Arzoo (second from the left) - Photo: Sindh government
Arzoo (second from the left) and Syed Ali Azhar (far right) with police in Karachi, Pakistan.
Photo: Sindh government

On October 13th, Arzoo Raja was abducted from her family home. She was forced to convert to Islam and marry her kidnapper, even though she was only 13 years old. On November 5th, a court ordered that her age be determined and, in the interim, she be moved to a shelter. (More information on this incident is available here.)

In the latest developments, a court nullified her marriage, determining that she was too young to marry. When asked if she wanted to return to her home or to the shelter, she replied neither. The court then ordered that she be returned to the shelter for her protection and education. Only those whom Arzoo permits can visit her, but with certainty not her kidnapper.

Her captor, Syed Ali Azhar, has been charged with the sexual assault of a minor. The marriage officiant, two witnesses, and two lawyers have all been charged for their part in solemnising a child marriage. The courts also ruled that Arzoo is to stay in the state-run shelter until the age of 18, since she does not wish to return home.

The family's lawyer believes that the young girl is reluctant to come home due to the "consistent brainwashing" she had received from her kidnapper and some other community activists. Human rights workers are concerned that without her parent's moral support, pressure will continue from the family of her kidnapper and other militant Islamic activists. A video has been released, demonstrating the devastating impact the situation is having on Arzoo's parents. To view the video, click here.

While we can be thankful for the court's swift dealings with the perpetrators in Arzoo's case, pray that similar decisions of justice will be made in other cases involving the forceful abduction and marriage of minors throughout Pakistan's judicial system. As this young teen now wrestles with the aftermath of her devastating situation, may the Lord administer needed healing both emotionally and spiritually; and, in the process, restore the close relationship she had with her loving parents. Also pray for Arzoo's physical healing, as she has recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is presently in isolation. May the Lord's comforting peace rest on every member of this broken family, knowing that He will replace their every tear and the ache of their hearts with renewed hope and encouragement for the future (Jeremiah 29:11).

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