Monday, July 15, 2013

The Balm of Gilead... Children of Pakistan sold into marriage

I have recently come across some extremely disturbing information. I don't even know how to write about the atrocities that are taking place. There are horrific crimes happening to the little girls of the tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Apparently, the girls are born and may be sold by their own families, may be demanded by men that prey on the girls walking to school, or may be a recompense of another person's crime. Girls as young as 5 years old, yes I said 5 years old are sold into the bondage of marriage of men of all ages.

The lives of these girls are marked and they live in unimaginable suffering, so much so that a psychiatrist in Lahore, Pakistan  Mohammad Ayub,  relates that he daily treats multiple young girls that are suffering from conversion disorder. The girls are not allowed to "speak against their husbands" so the psychological damage converts into physical symptoms including seizures, blindness and paralysis. The psychiatrist says he treats at least three to four girls daily suffering from this tragedy.

This link tells the story of  Nazia, who was determined to be wed at age 5 by the local jirga. The jirga is an assembly of local tribal elders.  Nazia was part of a recompense for the crime her uncle committed. Her uncle murdered a man in a land dispute and the jirga's sentence was his eldest brother's land,  animals and his 5 year old little girl. The parents were able to beg to keep their daughter until she was older, but most of these girls must be turned over by 13 and are pregnant with their first child by 14. 

Nazia is considered a swara. She is the disgraced family member sent to the family that was offended. She is to be the peace offering to make amends. All too often these girls become the target of abuse, being repeatedly raped by the men of the family. She is to be dressed in black and she has quit school due to the humiliation of  being called "the swara girl".

I was so disturbed by this story that I asked my friend Atif Raza who runs an orphanage in Pakistan what he knew of this practice. He confirmed that very sadly many girls suffer this fate. He blames the lack of education and poverty for these crimes against young girls. The girls are consider "a shoe". If the girls were allowed to be educated they would understand their rights, all the more reason for the girls to be antagonized while they walk to school. Hopefully, you remember the blog I wrote of young Malala who was shot in the head as she walked home from school. She has recovered and has become a powerful voice for the young girls of this region.

Atif Raza would like to build more Christian schools for the safe education of Christian and Muslim girls. He tells of a story in 2002 where two young Christian girls were kidnapped on their way to the public school which of course is Muslim as Pakistan is predominantly a Muslim nation. The Christians pulled their girls out of the school and they have not gone back since 2002.  The small minority of Christians need to be able to build their own schools where the "Muslim men will not eye the girls."

When the jirga decided that Nazia would be the recompense for her uncle's crime, they came into her house and took her out in the middle of the night. She says she did not understand what was happening but she knew it was not good. She cried and screamed and hung onto the threshold of  her door.

This reminds me of another story like this. It was in the Bible when the men of the Benjamin tribe had become so evil that they raped and "abused" a man's concubine all night. She crawled back to the porch and held onto the threshold until she died. When the men of the house came out they dispassionately told her to get up. When she did not get up they finally came to the realization that she had died, clinging to the threshold.  Judges 19:22-30

How many woman today die clinging to the thresholds of our churches? We see them coming in to the food pantries, outreaches, soup kitchens and maybe even sneaking into a service. They sit way in the back, trying to be invisible, not knowing what to expect but just hoping for a moment of safe haven. When I was in New York I literally saw a homeless girl that looked around thirteen, sleeping on the threshold of a church.

We cannot continue to ignore these things. The works of Jesus are to feed the hungry, bind up the broken hearted and to be a beacon of hope to our sisters and brothers. How can we help? We can pray, get the word out about these atrocities of young girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan, support organizations that are in these regions that are working to make a difference and do not ignore the obvious souls that require love, and healing in your own back yards. Do not withhold good gifts that you have been blessed with, you must reach out to those in need.
 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

If you are a women that has been abused, misused, forsaken, forgotten... whatever hurts have come your way, know that there is hope. There is a balm of Gilead for our daughters. Which means there is a soothing ointment of healing and peace that can only be given by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Feel free to contact your local church or outreach and/or you can contact me by email

God Bless, we are praying for you at Rachel's Heart.