By Jawad Mazhar, Worthy News Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
DANDPUR KHARROLIAN, PAKISTAN (Worthy News) -- An impoverished Christian man in Pakistan was still searching for his wife and two small children on Valentine's Day Saturday, February 14, nearly one month after they were allegedly kidnapped by Muslim militants because he refused to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ.
Pervez Masih, a worker, told Worthy News, they were taken away January 19 by "a radical Muslim man and his three accomplices" who ransacked his home in Dandpur Kharrolian village, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) southeast from the city of Sialkot in Pakistan's Punjab province.
Local police have so far failed to recover his family and arrest the suspects, police and Masih told Worthy News.
Masih said the tensions began last year when a man, identified as Muhammad Asghar, wanted to force him to become a Muslim. Yet, "I continuously turned down Asghar's invitation to join Islam, saying, I love Jesus Christ."
On January 19, after he left for work, "Muhammad Asghar and his three other unknown accomplices forced their way" into his home, he claimed. "They kidnapped by spouse Iram 28, my son Suhail, 6, and my breast feeding daughter Maryam at gun point," he said, his voice trembling.
Neighbors of Masih told Worthy News the perpetrators arrived in a black car, without a registration plate. They said the kidnappers “were armed with deadly firearms and entered Pervez Masih's house brandishing weapons in the air". Neighbors said they saw that gunmen forced Masih's wife and children to sit in the car at gun point, before leaving to an unknown destination.
Pervez Masih said police were "reluctant" to register a case against "their rich and powerful Muslim brethren." He said police only took action "due to my persistent and repeated appeals", however "they have neither recovered my wife and children nor arrested any of the four accused."
Yet, officials of the local Motra Police Station denied wrong doing. They told BosNewsLife they have "registered a case against the abductors of Masih's family" and pledged "to put the abductors behind bars soon."
There has been concern that the kidnappers may now force Masih's wife, and later her children, to recant Christianity, as has been done in other cases.
The case comes on the heels of several other reported kidnappings of Christians, including women and children, in Pakistan, amid spreading Islamic extremism in the country. Last month, police rescued two Christian teenage girls who were being kidnapped, sold to other men as sex slaves, and forced into Islam by two radical Muslims, rights investigators said.
Besides Christians, Islamic extremists have also targeted foreigners of Western aid organizations and businesses, who they view as observing a “Western religion” and supporters of the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
In one of the latest cases an obscure Pakistani militant group on Friday, February 13, threatened to kill a kidnapped American relief worker within 72 hours unless Pakistani authorities release 141 women from prison, United Nations officials said. The kidnappers released a video showing a blindfolded hostage, purported to be John Solecki, delivering a desperate appeal for freedom.
But another official of the International Red Cross (IRC), only identified as Daniel, who was also recently kidnapped by Islamic militants in the volatile Swat Valley, was released Wednesday, February 11, officials told Worthy News, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
Not everyone is so lucky. Poland has offered a $290.000 reward to find those responsible for the beheading of a Polish engineer Peter Stanczak, last week, by suspected militants linked to the Taliban group.