By Worthy News Service reporting from Pakistan with editing by Stefan J. Bos
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- A Christian woman who was forced to marry a Muslim farmer and convert to Islam amid a dispute over money said Monday, May 31, she has returned home after weeks of "captivity and torture."
Sania James, 33, was kidnapped April 5 by armed men who stormed her parent's house in the small town of Rawat, just outside Rawalpindi city, neighbors confirmed to BosNewsLife.
The gunmen allegedly told her father that he would see his daughter again if he pays off a loan of 250,000 Rupees (about $2,940) and a whopping 30 percent interest over that amount, much more than previously agreed.
James said she was taken to farmer Mohammad Shahbaz Ali and was forced to marry him. "I have been tortured, forced to convert and forcefully married" added James, who escaped earlier this month.
"Although I did not accept Islam, I was continuously tortured," she told Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife, without elaborating. "They even threatened to kill my parents, unless I would convert to Islam. One night I managed to escape and returned home. I have contacted Christian rights groups to help me."
Neighbors, who said they watched the kidnapping, were allegedly unable to intervene. "We have been warned by Ali that if any one will try to help these Christians will have to face dire consequences. Everyone is scared," one of the neighbors, Mohammad Hamza, told BosNewsLife.
Mohammad Shahbaz Ali reacted angrily when asked about the alleged incidents. "I refuse to say anything," he told Worthy News and BosNewsLife.
The kidnapping came five years after the woman's father, Ayub James, allegedly took the 250,000 Rupees loan from his long-time employer Ali to pay for his eldest daughter's wedding.
Her father, who worked at Ali's farm for two decades, was initially told that the interest over that money would be 15 percent, but that was later doubled, family members said. Ali allegedly told him in February that his family would be attacked unless he paid-off the loan within two months.
In a bid to raise the money, Sania James said she had joined her elderly impoverished father to work at the farm. However, she added, her father was "thrown out of the farm" and she was eventually kidnapped in April.
Local Pastor Faraz Samson, who tried to mediate in the conflict, said he went to Ali to end "the injustice, but he didn't listen." Police officials reportedly claimed they were unable to halt the alleged kidnapping, saying Ali is a very influential man.
"I am shocked that a daughter of a poor man has been kidnapped and the law cant do anything," Pastor Samson said. This is not an isolated incident, according to rights activists. They have expressed concerns that Christian women and girls have been kidnapped across Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation, often amid disputes over land and money.