Mob attacks on Christians in Jaranwala, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, have driven thousands of Christians from their homes. Christian Solidarity International (CSI) has mobilized emergency aid.
Around 2,500 Christians had to flee their homes in Jaranwala as a result of the mob attacks that broke out on August 16 following Muslim allegations that two Christian men had desecrated a copy of the Qur’an.
The angry mob formed after calls went out from mosques that all Muslims should gather to protest against the alleged act of blasphemy and demand the arrest of the two men.
In the ensuing violence, more than 20 churches were destroyed and dozens of homes and businesses belonging to Christians were ransacked. Video clips shared on social media show protestors breaking the cross off the roof of a church and flinging the church furniture out of the windows. (see video below)
During the attacks, protestors were heard to repeat chants in favor of the Islamist radical party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
The two Christian men are accused of desecrating pages of the Qur’an and writing defamatory comments on them against Islam and its prophet. They are now in custody charged with violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy statutes.
Under Section 295 of Pakistan’s Penal Code, blasphemy is a capital offense. Since Pakistan’s current blasphemy laws came into force in 1987, nearly 2,000 people have been accused of blasphemy; 78 people have been extrajudicially murdered after being accused.
A relative of the men told Morning Star News the allegations against them were completely false. “Someone has framed them to exact revenge,” he said.
The two accused are among the estimated 5,000 Christians who live in Jaranwala, most of them low-paid sanitary workers who occupy cramped homes. The attacks have left many homeless and with no means of survival. “We have nothing to eat or drink,” said local resident Farooq. (see video below)
He said some children had fled to the fields, while others had gone to friends’ homes but been turned away by the parents.
“My children have no place to live,” Farooq said, pointing to the burnt-out remains of his home.
“When I look at my house, I feel like crying,” he said. “It was built just six months ago.”
“We need help to rebuild our homes so that we can live here with our children.”
Through its local partner, CSI is providing emergency aid, including food, shelter, clothing and medicine to victims and displaced families.
Bishop Azad Marshall, Moderator Bishop of the Church of Pakistan, called for justice for the Christian minority.
“Words fail me as I write this. We, bishops, priests and lay people are deeply pained and distressed at the Jaranwala incident,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice and the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our own homeland,” the bishop said.
Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar called for swift action against those responsible for the violence, according to news reports. Hundreds of the attackers have been arrested in recent days.
“Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have created a climate of terror, where mere accusations have the power to put people in prison and provoke mob violence, especially against Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims and other religious minorities,” Joel Veldkamp from CSI commented.
“As long as Pakistan continues to violate religious liberty by prosecuting people for the crime of ‘insulting Islam,’ this kind of violence will continue.”