Nadia Din, aged 23, married a Christian man, Aleem Masih, aged 28, on 8 April 2014 after she became a Christian. The couple, from the city of Lahore, northern Pakistan, fled to the town of Narang Mandi, around 50 kilometres (31 miles) away, fearing attacks from Nadia’s family, who were incensed at her conversion.
The couple had returned to visit Lahore and as they waited in a rickshaw, Nadia’s father and brother and one other person got into the rickshaw and forced the driver to take them to a farm.
“Our rickshaw driver had a gun pointed to his face and was instructed to ride to the place they gave directions to,” said Nadia. “They took us to a big field in Khaliq Nagar where they beat us and then fired the gun at Aleem. I jumped in front of Aleem to save him and they fired at me too.”
“The attackers returned to their village and publicly proclaimed that they had avenged their humiliation and restored the pride of the Muslims by killing the couple in cold blood,” said Aneeqa Maria, from human rights group The Voice Society.
Nadia’s brother, Azhar Din, handed himself over to the local police, confessing to having killed his sister and her husband. When the police arrived at the field where the attack had taken place, they found the couple left for dead. Aleem Masih had been shot in the ankle, in the ribs and then to the skull. Nadia had been shot in abdomen but had survived the attack.
A mob of local Muslims later gathered to protest against Nadia’s conversion to Christianity and threatened attacks on more local Christians. Some local Christian families fled their homes after hearing the threats.
Nadia’s brother, Azhar, has been imprisoned but her father and two others who were involved were released on bail at the Lahore High Court despite the fact that incident reports have been filed against them. It is thought that they were released in order to calm angry local Muslims.
“I have lost my beautiful brother,” mourned Aleem’s brother, Naaem Masih. “He was so young and all because a Muslim family felt it an insult that a Christian married a Muslim. Now the same family threatens us all daily but we will not give up and will seek justice.”
Christians in Pakistan frequently face discrimination and violence. Parvez Henry Gill, a Christian businessman in Karachi, southern Pakistan, has funded the construction of a giant concrete cross as “a symbol of peace and hope” in the face of perpetual threat and hopelessness. The cross, built inside one of the oldest graveyards in the city, Gora Qabaristan, reaches 43m (140ft) in height.