Pakistani police guarded the Christian quarter of Jaranwala in eastern Pakistan on Thursday morning August 17, stormed the day before by an angry mob. Local authorities announced more than 100 arrests after the violence sparked by accusations of desecration of the Koran.
Hundreds of people of the Muslim faith swept through the streets of the Christian quarter on Wednesday, August 16, on the outskirts of the industrial city of Faisalabad, in the state of Punjab. Several churches were burnt down and a Christian cemetery vandalized. The assault was sparked when a group of religious fanatics accused a family of blaspheming against the holy text of Islam.
A Punjab government spokesman said in a statement that more than 100 people have been arrested and police are looking for the targeted family. “The Koran has been desecrated and the feelings of Muslims hurt. The order was given to arrest the accused.says the document.
Video shows the crowd demanding that suspected blasphemers be punished as a cross is torn from the top of a building. “The mob inflicted serious damage, including on Christian homes and several churches,” local government official Ahad Noor said.
In other videos posted on social media, Muslim leaders can be seen using loudspeakers to call on their followers to take action. “Christians have desecrated the Koran. All religious, all Muslims must unite and gather in front of the mosque. Better to die if you don’t care about Islam,” proclaims a monk.
“We call for justice and action from law enforcement and those who deliver justice (…) so that they immediately intervene and assure us that our lives are of value in our own homeland,” posted on social network X (formerly Twitter) the Anglican Bishop of Raiwind, in the neighboring city of Lahore, 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. A church building is being burned as I type this message. Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been… pic.twitter.com/xruE83NPXL
—Bishop Azad Marshall (@BishopAzadM) August 16, 2023
The issue of blasphemy is particularly sensitive in Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of offense to Islam can result in killings and lynchings. The Independent Human Rights Commission in Pakistan has repeatedly pointed out that blasphemy laws are being used as weapons to target religious minorities and settle personal vendettas. These violent incidents have been steadily increasing for several years.
Christians, who make up about 2% of the population, occupy one of the lowest rungs of Pakistani society and are frequently the target of spurious and unfounded blasphemy allegations. Politicians have been assassinated, lawyers killed and students lynched over such accusations.
The United States has urged the Pakistani government to investigate the attacks. “We are deeply shocked that churches and homes have been targeted in response to an alleged desecration of the Quran in Pakistan,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Wednesday.
“Violence or the threat of violence is by no means an acceptable form of expressionhe recalled. We urge the Pakistani authorities to fully investigate these allegations and call for calm. »
Pakistan’s new acting prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said he was on X “disgusted” by these events. He announced some “severe measures against those who violate the law and target minorities”.