LAHORE: A domestic altercation one afternoon and a subsequent revelation about faith conversion changed the lives of Christian couple Amin Masih and Shehnaz. While the couple decided to stick with each other, they were shunned by their hometown and the kindness once shown by their Muslim neighbours soon turned into disapproval and threats.
Amin Masih married Shehnaz, while his younger brother Qaisar Masih married Shehnaz’s sister Gulnaz after the sisters converted to Christianity from Islam. The wives’ conversion was kept secret throughout the two-and-a-half years they lived in seemingly tolerant Narang Mandi of Sheikhupura district, where they were treated with respect by the Muslim locals.
The couples are now on the run after the locals demanded custody of Shehnaz and Gulnaz.
“We were living happy lives with our children but since it was disclosed that our wives were from a Muslim family, local Muslims, who were very kind to us before this incident, are hell-bent upon taking custody of them,” said Amin.
On March 31, Amin said his wife ran into the streets after an argument with him and started shouting: “I was a Muslim, Christians are torturing me, please help me.”
Although the neighbours looked on as silent spectators, the whispers soon started.
The next day, local leader Sardar Hashim Ali Mann, who contested in the previous election on the ticket of the Pakistan Peoples Party, summoned Amin and his family at his Dera.
Amin recalled that Mann questioned his marriage, to which he replied that his wife embraced Christianity, after which they married of their own free will.
This, however, offended Mann and he warned Amin to leave his wife and also ask his brother to do the same as the women were Muslims and it was inappropriate for them to live together.
Amin said that they immediately left their house taking with them only the bare essentials. He added that he also had to leave his job as a sweeper in a Lesco office in Narang Mandi.
Shehnaz told The Express Tribune that while she realises that it was a mistake to have a public outburst, she would never think of living without Amin. She did not realise the gravity of the situation just then. Now, all she dreams is going back to the way things were.
Shehnaz further said that she had been married before to a drug addict, who used to physically abuse her. Her parents did not support her and she was forced to stand up on her own two feet and leave her first husband.
Qaisar told The Express Tribune that they have taken shelter at one of their relative’s homes in Thokar Niaz Beg – but they have refused to keep them any longer since locals there also lodged a protest against them.
When contacted, Mann told The Express Tribune that he summoned the couple when he learnt that Shehnaz was not divorced from her previous husband and married a Christian man. He said knowing their “un-Islamic act” he forced them to leave his area. He added that he told Amin he would not let them live in his area if they continued with their immoral acts.
Mann added that he had given both couples a chance to leave each other, but both husbands and wives refused, after which they were thrown out.
Human Liberation Commission head Aslam Parvaiz Sahotra condemned the couples’ eviction and said that according to the Constitution of Pakistan everyone has the right to live wherever they want.
He appealed to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khan Khosa to take notice of the matter and provide security to both couples.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.