On Wednesday, blasphemy claims led to attacks on many churches in the Faisalabad neighborhood of Jaranwala tehsil.
According to the news, a group of more than a hundred individuals assaulted a Christian neighborhood in Jaranwala and burned down at least one church, the Salvation Army Church, which was also reportedly one of the oldest in the area.
Residents claimed police officers watched helplessly as hundreds of individuals armed with sticks and batons destroyed churches and ransacked and set fire to homes in the surrounding neighborhood.
Shopkeepers in the neighborhood announced a strike after widespread fear caused them to close their stores. There were police officers present, but the situation remained tense. The mob also shut down the area around Cinema Chowk.
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… pic.twitter.com/xruE83NPXL— Bishop Azad Marshall (@BishopAzadM) August 16, 2023
The police tried to reassure the mob that they would take action against the blasphemy suspect, but the crowd insisted that they would do so themselves.
People in the region reportedly incited the mob using mosque loudspeakers after hearing accounts of the purported vandalism of religious literature by three Christians.
I am gutted by the visuals coming out of Jaranwala,#Faisalabad. Stern action would be taken against those who violate law and target minorities. All law enforcement has been asked to apprehend culprits and bring them to justice. Rest assured that the government of Pakistan stands… https://t.co/GHWUGA1NNq— Anwaar ul Haq Kakar (@anwaar_kakar) August 16, 2023
The individuals were charged with blasphemy under Pakistan’s penal code, namely sections 295B (concerning the desecration of the Holy Quran) and 295C (involving the use of derogatory statements towards the Holy Prophet).
The police have not yet taken any action against the mob responsible for the widespread panic and fear in the region.
The Punjabi government’s Services and General Administration Department has issued a notice on the matter.
To restore peace and order, the Rangers paramilitary unit has been called in.
The president of the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Azad, issued a message on social media demanding fair treatment.
After the recent celebrations of independence and freedom in his country, he took to X (previously Twitter) to call for justice and action. “We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice for the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our own homeland,” he wrote.
As caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar promised, those who broke the law and specifically targeted minorities in Jaranwala will suffer serious consequences.
Using X (formerly Twitter), he apologized for what happened in Jaranwala and promised that those who took the law into their own hands and attacked members of minority groups would face serious consequences. The caretaker premier expressed his sadness at the news coming out of Jaranwala, Faisalabad, and vowed to take strong measures against those who broke the law and attacked religious minorities.
The National Commission for Human Rights shared the public’s outrage at the mob attack and the increasing frequency of such incidents.
NCHR personnel have arrived on the scene. The federal organization emphasized the importance of swift government action against criminals and the maintenance of the rule of law.