At least four churches and some buildings around them have been ransacked over blasphemy allegations in Pakistan’s Punjab today. The mobs also demolished the house of a Christian cleaner who was accused of carrying out a blasphemous act.
The Moderator Bishop of the Church of Pakistan alleged that Bibles were desecrated and “Christians were tortured” during the attack, which took place in Faisalabad district’s Jaranwala tehsil. In view of the “vulnerable” law-and-order situation, the commissioner of the district has requested the deployment of two companies of the Pakistan Rangers.
The Salvation Army Church, United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church and Shehroonwala Church situated in the Isa Nagri area were ransacked, Imran Bhatti, the pastor of Jaranwala, was quoted as saying by Dawn.com
The incident comes two months after a 22-year-old Christian man was sentenced to death for having blasphemous images on his cellphone.
Videos from the spot showed mobs of over 100 people, some of whom were armed with sticks, ransacking two churches and setting some materials ablaze outside them. Other videos, which were shot from a distance, showed smoke rising from the area.
“There are narrow lanes [in the area] in which small churches are located and there is one main church … they have vandalised portions of the churches,” the police chief of Pakistan’s Punjab, Usman Anwar, told Dawn.com.
Mr Anwar said the area had been cordoned off and its assistant commissioner, a member of the Christian community, had also been evacuated after the people turned against him.
In a letter to the additional secretary (internal security) of Pakistan’s Punjab, the Faisalabad commissioner has flagged the “vulnerable” law-and-order situation in Jeranwala and requested the deployment of two companies of the Pakistan Rangers.
“Despite the Police’ best efforts, the law & order situation standstills too sensitive and vulnerable. Thus, you are, requested to deploy two companies of Rangers/sufficient armed force urgently to check the turmoiling Law & Order situation at Tehsil Jaranwala District Faisalabad (sic),” the letter states.
Azad Marshall, who is the Moderator Bishop of the Church of Pakistan, posted on X, formerly Twitter, “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 harrased (sic) 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… pic.twitter.com/xruE83NPXL
— Bishop Azad Marshall (@BishopAzadM) August 16, 2023
Appealing to the police and other law enforcement agencies to take action, the Bishop added, “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.”
In June, a court in Pakistan’s Bahawalpur had sentenced a 22-year-old Christian man, Noman Masih, to death for having blasphemous images on his phone. The verdict was condemned by human rights organisations.