Some church buildings have been set ablaze and hundreds of Christian homes destroyed after armed extremists went on the rampage Amid Alleged Blasphemy in Pakistan. Over 2000 Christians from the Punjab town of Jaranwala, near Faisalabad, have fled their homes as mobs began throwing rocks and stones and setting fire to buildings.
Videos and messages from local residents on social media suggested that the mobs were stirred up by broadcast over local mosque loudspeakers, of the alleged desecration of religious scriptures by two local Christian residents.The two accused have been charged with insulting Islam and defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed.
Although a heavy contingent of police reached the area and assured the growing mob that the suspects would be apprehended and would face action under the law, videos showed the crowds proceeding to attack the colony, demanding to execute the two men themselves.
Speaking on Wednesday to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Abid Tanveer, vicar general of Faisalabad Catholic Diocese, reported back from a visit to Jaranwala where he said it was still unsafe and called for prayers that the lives of Christians in Jaranwala be protected. He added “So many people have lost their belongings, everything. They don’t know what to do or where to go.”
Father Tanveer reported that 13 churches belonging to different Christian denominations, including Salvation Army Church, and Saint Paul Catholic Church, had been attacked, a number of them torched, as well as a catechist’s house and a parish house. He said that Father Khalid, parish priest of St. Paul’s, Jaranwala, had to lock himself inside the parish house as extremists surrounded it, shouting and demanding he come out. Eventually they left, enabling the priest to leave, and shortly after, the attackers returned and torched baptismal, marriage, and death certificates held in the parish office. Local residents said that if police had acted in time, the situation would not have escalated, but Punjab provincial Police Inspector, Mohammed Naved said that the police force tried their possible best in controlling the armed men against attacking the churches. The government has since called for additional police contingents from other cities and exit and entry points to the city have been sealed. Christian institutions and churches in adjoining cities have been closed in an attempt to avoid further attacks.