Several churches vandalised, Christians’ homes torched over blasphemy allegations in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala

    A Muslim mob comprising hundreds of people, armed with sticks and batons, stormed Christian neighbourhoods in the Jaranwala area of Faisalabad on Wednesday, vandalising several churches and setting scores of houses on fire after accusing its members of desecrating the Quran, sources said.

    Videos and messages from locals suggested that loudspeakers of mosques were used to convey alleged desecration of religious scriptures by two Christians named Rocky and Raja, sons of Salim Masih.

    The attacks caused fear and panic in the area. Shops in the local market shut down as armed mobs roamed the streets. Though a heavy contingent of police reached the area and assured the growing mob that the suspects would be apprehended and would face action as per the law, the crowds proceeded to attack the colony.

    Local mobs raised slogans in favour of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Khatam-e-Nabuwat apart from demanding the execution of the culprit. The mobs later gathered at Mehtab Masjid near Cinema Chowk.

    Locals claimed that if police had acted in time, the situation would not have gotten out of hand.

    Christian residents of the area appeared to have fled fearing for their lives. Police sources said that the assistant commissioner of the area, a member of the Christian community, has also been evacuated after people turned against him.

    Jaranwala pastor Imran Bhatti said that the ransacked churches included the Salvation Army Church, United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church and Shehroonwala Church situated in the Isa Nagri area.

    He added the mob also demolished the house of a Christian cleaner.

    A first information report has also been registered against the accused under sections 295B (defiling, etc., of the Holy Quran) and 295C (use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

    Posting on X (formerly Twitter), Church of Pakistan’s President Bishop Dr Azad Marshall said that Bibles had been desecrated and Christians were tortured and harassed “having been falsely accused of violating the Holy Quran”.

    “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. A church building is being burnt as I type this message. Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been tortured and harassed having been falsely accused of violating the Holy Quran,” he stated.

    “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 that has just celebrated independence and freedom, he added.

    Reposting on the thread of Bishop Marshall, the National Commission on Human Rights also condemned the incident and called for curbing the misuse of blasphemy allegations.

    “The rising number of cases of alleged blasphemy & mob violence are extremely concerning.  NCHR team has gone to the site. Govt must take strong action against perpetrators & ensure writ of law,” NCHR shared on X.

    Former interior minister Rana Sanaullah strongly condemned the “dastardly attack” and stressed that the culprits should be brought to justice at the earliest.

    “Extremism and hatred nullify the fundamental principles of Islam,” he stated.

    Former senator Afrasiab Khattak condemned the incident and demanded that the culprits should be brought to book.

    “Pakistani state has failed to provide security to the worship places of people who follow religions other than Islam. Impunity to the crimes committed in the name of religion has emboldened extremists and terrorists,” he added.

    Balochistan Senator Sarfaraz Bughti also called on the Punjab government to enforce its full might to protect churches and Christian hope.

    “We, as a Pakistani, can’t allow the madness happening in Jaranwala,” he said on X. “We have a responsibility toward the minorities in our country, and we couldn’t let the crisis worsen any further!” Bughti added.

    Pakistan has a long history of misuse of blasphemy laws, which has been a source of contention between religious and secular forces in the country.

    The laws, which date back to the British colonial era, criminalise certain acts — punishable by death or life imprisonment — including those deemed to be blasphemous towards the Holy Prophet (PBUH), his family and companions.

    However, they continue to be misused with the aim to persecute religious minorities, settle personal scores and stifle free speech. In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of blasphemy cases and mob violence related to these laws, resulting in the extrajudicial killings of over 100 people.

    The government of Pakistan has been under pressure from human rights groups, activists, and international organisations to reform the blasphemy laws and bring an end to violence as witnessed in the case of Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan national killed by a frenzied mob over a false accusation of blasphemy in Sialkot in 2021.

    But efforts to do so have been met with resistance from hardliner groups and politicians.

    Last week, a teacher affiliated with a language centre was shot dead by unknown armed men on an allegation of blasphemy in Turbat town of Kech district.

    In a similar incident in February this year, a man was lynched over blasphemy allegations in Nankana Sahib after he was accused of “desecrating the Holy Quran”.

    In January 2022, the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in a report stated that as many as 89 citizens were killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy in the country since independence. The report said that from 1947 to 2021, 18 women and 71 men were extra-judicially killed over blasphemy accusations. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men.

    Out of the total, 1,287 citizens were accused of committing blasphemy from 2011- 21.

    “The actual number is believed to be higher because not all blasphemy cases get reported in the press,” the report had said, adding more than 70 percent of the accused were reported from Punjab.

    The report said that misuse of blasphemy laws is often described by courts as an unlawful act. It had said the Islamabad High Court had previously suggested to the legislature to amend the existing laws to give equal punishment to those who level false blasphemy accusations.

    Most recently, the Senate passed a bill to increase the punishment for using derogatory remarks against revered personalities — including the Holy Prophet’s (Peace Be Upon Him) family, wives and companions, and the four caliphs — from three years of imprisonment to at least 10 years in jail.

    However, the law came under criticism by the PPP. The party’s human rights cell noted that blasphemy in any form of any religion could not be condoned and must be punished. It was also noted that the intentions behind the bill were questionable which, it feared, would only promote sectarianism and intolerance in the country.

    About Post Author


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here


    Hot Topics

    Related Articles