Pakistan has witnessed another violent incident targeting its Christian minority as a mob attacked a community in Jaranwala, Faisalabad, after rumors of blasphemy.
Accusations against a local Christian man, Raja Amir, of desecrating the Quran, led to a furious crowd setting fire to a church and damaging several others, as well as ransacking Christian homes. The police reportedly intervened, dispersing the attackers, with Muslim clerics and elders assisting.
Khalid Mukhtar, a local priest, shared that most of the area’s Christians have fled to safety after most of the 17 local churches were attacked. Videos on social media show a large mob attacking churches and homes while some police officers stand by, not intervening.
The violence was widely condemned across Pakistan, including by the caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, who called for the apprehension and prosecution of the rioters. Bishop Azad Marshall expressed distress and called for action from law enforcement.
Blasphemy accusations, which can carry the death penalty in Pakistan, often incite violence. Past incidents, such as the 2009 Gojra mob attack, have led to the destruction of Christian homes and loss of life.
Archbishop Benny Travas of Karachi voiced his “shock and disbelief” and stated,
“We as a Christian community have time and again displayed our fidelity to the nation of Pakistan, yet incidents like [what is happening in] Jaranwala show that we are in reality second-class citizens who can be terrorized and frightened at will.”
In response to the attacks, Pakistan’s Catholic bishops have called for a Day of Prayer for peace and harmony on August 20th.