A wave of violence has swept through the Punjab town of Jaranwala near Faisalabad, Pakistan, as extremists targeted Christian communities, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Reports indicate that approximately 15 church buildings have been attacked, and numerous Christian homes have been destroyed as mobs fueled by religious tensions went on a rampage.
The violence erupted after reports, disseminated through local mosque loudspeakers, claimed that two local Christian residents had desecrated religious scriptures. Outraged by these allegations, mobs began throwing rocks and stones at Christian homes and buildings while setting them on fire. Videos and messages posted on social media platforms depicted the chaotic scenes as Christian residents fled the area to escape the violence.
Authorities quickly responded by sending a substantial police contingent to the area, assuring the growing mob that the accused individuals would be apprehended and held accountable under the law. However, video evidence captured the mob’s persistence, as they proceeded to attack the colony, demanding to take the law into their own hands and execute the alleged blasphemers.
Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Abid Tanveer, vicar general of Faisalabad Catholic diocese, provided firsthand accounts of the horrifying situation. He stated that the atmosphere in Jaranwala remained unsafe, causing intense fear among the Christian population. Father Tanveer emphasized the urgent need for prayers to protect the lives of those affected and highlighted the significant loss of belongings and homes experienced by the victims.
The violence targeted not only homes but also places of worship. Thirteen churches representing various Christian denominations were attacked, with some being set ablaze. Additionally, a catechist’s house and a parish house were also targeted. The situation escalated to the point where Father Khalid, the parish priest of St. Paul’s, Jaranwala, had to lock himself inside the parish house as extremists surrounded the building, demanding his presence.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a charity advocating for religious freedom, reported that Christian residents in the colony and surrounding villages were fleeing due to the continuous threat of further attacks. One resident mentioned that over 500 families had fled three Christian settlements out of fear for their safety. The Salvation Army Church, one of the oldest churches in the area, was also ransacked and reportedly set on fire by the mob.
Local residents and advocacy organizations such as CSW criticized the delayed police response, suggesting that timely intervention could have prevented the escalation of violence. In response to the crisis, the government called for additional police contingents from other cities and sealed entry and exit points to the affected city. To mitigate further attacks, Christian institutions and churches in adjacent cities were temporarily closed.
Mervyn Thomas, Founder President of CSW, expressed deep concern over the violent incident and the recurring pattern of targeting minorities in Pakistan due to blasphemy allegations. He criticized the lack of swift action by the police to prevent the violence and urged the Pakistani government to prioritize security measures and support for the affected communities.