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Church set on fire over blasphemy in Pakistan’s Faisalabad

On Wednesday morning, a mob of over 7,000 people invaded a Christian colony in the Jaranwala Tehsil of the Faisalabad district, looted a number of buildings, and set a number of churches on fire over blasphemy claims, according to residents and police.

The incident was strongly denounced by the Christian community in Pakistan as well as by political figures and human rights organizations, and Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar promised to take tough measures against those responsible.

What actually happened

On Wednesday morning, as people gathered and reports of the desecration of several religious texts came from mosques, the situation in Jaranwala got violent.
Soon after, a sizable crowd gathered close to the Christian community at Cinema Chowk and accused two nearby Christians of profaning the Holy Quran.

Local police rushed on the scene and made an effort to calm the angry gathering before it turned into a mob. Social media users posted videos of a police officer promising the crowd that they would find the perpetrators—two local Christians going by the names Rocky and Raja—and that they would make sure they were treated harshly in accordance with the law.

Meanwhile, other video clips that were uploaded to the internet demonstrated announcements being made from the local mosques, urging “Muslims” to leave their houses and take action.
The local markets were shut down, and hundreds of residents of the Christian colony were compelled to evacuate to safety as a result of the advancing mob and the terrible comments and chants that were yelled. According to locals, the three Christian villages’ 500 families all left the area.

Armed crowds made their way through the streets to the lane where the reportedly desecrated pages were earlier noticed by a woman, and they then stormed a nearby church and some nearby homes.

At least eight churches in the area were ransacked and set on fire by the crowd, including a Salvation Army Church, one of the oldest in the area, as well as two other Salvation Army churches, one of which belonged to the FGA and some Presbyterian churches.
The colony’s inside furniture was thrown into the street and set on fire. According to some Christian activists, some bibles were also vandalized, and some residences in the colony were set on fire.

Other buildings and private property were reportedly damaged, but a detailed assessment of the damage won’t be known until investigators have access to the area and have thoroughly surveyed the damaged property.

In addition to calling for the execution of the offenders, the mob afterwards assembled at Mehtab Masjid near Cinema Chowk and sang slogans in support of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Khatam-e-Nabuwat.

There were no reports of casualties, though.Locals asserted that if police had intervened sooner, things might not have gotten so out of control.

Police arrival

The crowd was unable to be stopped by the police units stationed surrounding the Christian colony from damaging the churches and other private property, therefore a much bigger detachment of Punjab police were sent to Jaranwala to take control of the situation.

Dr. Usman Anwar, the Punjab Inspector General of Police, and the Chief Secretary of Punjab have arrived in Jaranwala to assess the situation.

According to IGP Dr. Anwar, the police have stationed some 6,500 personnel in the area and are currently “in control” of the situation.

He continued by saying that the 7,000-person crowd that stormed the Christian community and churches also included extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) supporters.
Meanwhile, it was announced in a notification that Christian Shaukat Masih, the assistant commissioner assigned to Jaranwala, had been suspended and told to report to the Administration Wing for further instructions. The assistant commissioner of Tandianwala, Rana Aurangzeb, was given the extra responsibility of managing Jaranwala’s affairs for a period of three months.


The Christian community, human rights organizations, political figures, and the acting prime minister all denounced the incident.
The incident was denounced in a statement by Bishop Church of Pakistan president Azad Marshall.
“Words fail me as I write this. We, Bishops, Priests and lay people are deeply pained and distressed at the Jaranwala incident in the Faisalabad District in Pakistan,” He continued, writing that a church building had been set on fire, that Bibles had been vandalized, and that Christians had been subjected to torture and harassment.
The National Commission for Human Rights described the situation as “sad and shameful” and noted that numerous Christian families have fled their homes.
In a separate statement, the Human Rights Council of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded that the alleged blasphemy-related mob attack on Christian families, their homes, and places of worship in Jaranwala, Faisalabad, be “condemned in no uncertain terms.”
The attack was denounced in a statement by the civil society organization Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). Peter Jacob, executive director of CSJ, urged the Punjab government to take swift action to combat lawlessness.

Jacob stated that “the abuse of blasphemy laws has increased exponentially in the current year,” adding that “up until August 16, 2023, some 198 people had been accused [of blasphemy], with 85% of victims Muslims, 9% Ahmadis, and 4.4% Christian.”

He mentioned that there had been conflict with the Christian community in Sargodha in July.

“Today, five churches and dozens of houses have been vandalized, destroyed. Hundreds of Christians have fled their homes from the Christian colonies of Issa Nagari, and Nasrat Colony, in Jaranwala,” he lamented.
PM orders strict action

Anwaarul Haq Kakar, the caretaker prime minister, warned that anyone who break the law and target minorities would face harsh punishment.

He also said on Twitter that all law enforcement agencies have been urged to find the offenders and prosecute them.
The incidents at Jaranwala were described as “sad” and “disturbing” by the former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

He urged the government to punish the offenders, saying that “all religious sites, Holy Books, and figures are sacred and deserve our highest level of respect.”
In June, a court in Pakistan’s Bahawalpur had sentenced a 22-year-old Christian man, Noman Masih, to death for having blasphemous images on his phone. The verdict was condemned by human rights organisations.

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