Many Pakistani Christians still follow the tradition of arranged marriage. Now in order to give a person more insight into the individual their parents are matching them with, the British Pakistani Christian Association has launched a Christian dating website called Shaadi 4 Christians.
"Often the procedure for an arranged marriage is for one parent to talk to another set of parents without any meeting of the children," BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry said during an interview with The Christian Post.
Chowdhry recalled how his future in-laws would not allow him to approach their daughter until after the engagement. He had so many question about her but there was no way for him to find out until after they were engaged.
"A site like this provides more opportunity for a more strategic overview, especially for that potential husband or wife that will be the most slighted in the whole process," he explained. "The parents just trust God. It is the suitors that are the most terrified in these situations."
Parents have access via a separate account, which would allow them to ensure that their son's or daughter's prospective partner is truly a Christian and has a similar cultural lifestyle as their own. This would minimize the chances of the parents being misled -- Chowdhry said there have been such cases before when other websites or social media platforms were used. With Shaadi 4 Christians, suitors can list down the church they attend, and the parents can request for a church background check on the person. The website's officials can then call the church or pastor for verification.
"What we are finding with Pakistani Christians is that the first priority is that the potential partner is a Christian and can prove a commitment to God," Chowdhry said. "We get requests directly from parents to check with churches that are being named. We will do that, especially if someone from Britain or America wants to contact the daughter in Pakistan. We will check that it is a real church and that the pastor is genuine and that the contact details they provided are the correct ones and not made up. We have officers on the ground who are equipped to do that."
The website is not just for arranged marriages, however, as others can also chat and directly communicate with potential partners. And while it is focused on Christians in Pakistan, India, and other South Asian nations, it is not exclusive to them. The organization hopes that Christians, such as those seeking asylum in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, would use the website to find partners in the west.
"For me, that would be just a highlight of how this system could be a positive mechanism for protecting the Christian asylum seekers," he continued. "It would be a Romantic escape from persecution."
Shaadi 4 Christians went live in May and service is free for six months for those who register. It will then charge a monthly fee of $7.12 or £5.