ChristianPersecution.com reported here that eight churches in Pakistan had been set ablaze. The ultimate number was 26.
For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.
“Pakistani Christians Assess Damages after Mob Attack in Jaranwala,” International Christian Concern, August 19, 2023:
08/19/2023 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – The Christian community in Jaranwala, Pakistan, is reeling in the aftermath of an attack by a Muslim mob this week that vandalized hundreds of homes, churches, and businesses and left families destitute. The violence has sparked international outrage, spread fear among Christians and fomented underlying tensions between religious groups.
Police continue to investigate the motive behind the mob attack. It is still unclear, but reports suggest religious intolerance and prejudice played a significant role. The mob attack by Muslim extremists was sparked on Wednesday when two Christian brothers were charged with blasphemy for allegedly desecrating the Quran. The report was announced in local mosques, and as many as 5,000 Muslims descended on a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Jaranwala, where it ransacked churches, homes, businesses, and vehicles. Jaranwala is a city in Punjab and home to about 150,000 residents.
The Pakistan government condemned the attack and vowed to take swift action against the perpetrators. An investigation was launched to find and apprehend those responsible for the violence. More than 100 Muslims were arrested. Security measures were also increased in the affected community to prevent further acts of violence and to instill calm. Government leaders also announced they would help the victims rebuild their homes. Survivors wondered if the government was simply paying lip service to its promises. Only time will tell.
According to ICC staffers who surveyed the area, and local reports, estimates as high as 400 Christian homes were damaged or set on fire, leaving behind a trail of destruction, anguish, and heartache. Many Christian families are now homeless, without food and clean water. The home of Sabir Khalid, a Catholic priest, was broken into with a crane and set on fire.
Twenty-six churches were also damaged or set on fire. The mob used cranes to demolish some churches. Survivors say this senseless act of violence has left a deep scar on the religious fabric of the Christian community. It also served as a reminder of the importance of interfaith dialogue, and unity in the face of adversity. Before this week, families of different faiths lived harmoniously in the region.
Tensions have risen in recent years, however, with increased acts of discrimination of violence against Christians and religious minorities. This incident served as a grim reminder of the challenges faced by Pakistani Christians. Islam is the state religion in Pakistan, or officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution. Pakistanis are Muslim by a large majority (96 percent), with Christians making up less than two percent of the population.
International Christian Concern (ICC) and many local and international organizations are supplying emergency aid to affected Christian families.
“The mob violence against innocent Christians has shocked but not surprised us,” said ICC President Jeff King. “While Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees the free expression of faith, radical Islam has made that extremely difficult and dangerous for Christians. Anyone can be accused of saying or doing anything, and accusations can spark a wildfire of anger as we saw this week. As a global organization committed to serving the persecuted church, we will do whatever we can to stand by our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.”
Blasphemy laws have existed in Pakistan since the 1800s, but there has been a steady rise in their formal use within society. The laws can carry harsh sentences including life in prison and death. The laws penalize Christians for any action considered offensive to Islam – leading to false accusations for the slightest of grievances or personal revenge.
The Jaranwala incident has left a lasting impact on the more than 1,000 Christian families living in the affected neighborhood. The destruction of their homes and businesses left them homeless and financially devastated. Many lost their livelihoods as their shops and sources of income were destroyed. The psychological trauma cannot be overstated, as they were subjected to violence purely based on their religious beliefs.
The incident also had a profound impact on the broader Christian community in Pakistan. It served as a wake-up call, highlighting the vulnerability and marginalization experienced by religious minorities. Fear and insecurity spread among Christians across the country, leading to a heightened sense of vigilance and concern for their safety. Next month will mark the 10-year anniversary of Pakistan’s worst attack against Christians when 127 worshippers were killed in the All Saints Church bombing….