Father Abid Tanveer, the vicar general of the Diocese of Faisalabad in Pakistan, has called upon Western governments to intervene in the wake of the worst-ever incident of Christian persecution in the country.
Jaranwala Attack Shocks Pakistan
On the 16th of August, 2023, the town of Jaranwala in Punjab Province, Pakistan, experienced an unprecedented attack when a 7,000-strong mob targeted 26 churches and chapels. This act of violence forced hundreds of Christians to flee their homes, leaving Pakistan’s bishops to describe it as the “worst incident against Christians” in the nation’s history.
Father Tanveer, speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), recounted the “anger and hatred” he witnessed during the attack. He emphasized that justice is essential for the victims of Jaranwala to find closure and feel safe in their homeland.
Western Powers Urged to Intervene
Father Tanveer has issued a heartfelt plea to Western governments, urging them to apply international pressure on Pakistan to address the ongoing persecution of Christians. He stated, “Governments in the West should call for justice. The Government in Pakistan will listen to the West because they need them in terms of aid and trade.”
He further stressed, “The West should write to our government and ask why Christians in our country are being persecuted and what they are doing about it.”
Within 24 hours of the Jaranwala attack, Pakistani authorities made 180 arrests and deployed over 6,000 police and paramilitary forces to the region. However, Father Tanveer voiced concerns about alleged corruption within Pakistan’s legal system, noting that there is only a “50/50 chance” that justice will be served for the victims.
He underlined the lingering fear among the Christian community, saying, “There remains an underlying fear that many people have. They are always wondering where and when the next attack will come.”
Blasphemy Allegations Sparked the Violence
The violence in Jaranwala was triggered by accusations of blasphemy against two Christian men. In response to the fears of further accusations, 50 students from Jaranwala left for hostels in nearby Gojra and Yohannabad in Lahore, seeking refuge from the turmoil.
Father Tanveer commended Muslim leaders, known as maulanas, for denouncing the attacks and emphasized the importance of their followers embracing messages of peace and respect for religious diversity.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Provides Support
In the face of this tragedy, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has provided £130,000 in emergency aid to Jaranwala’s affected Christian community. This aid includes clothing, kitchen appliances, bedding, and school supplies, offering much-needed relief during this tumultuous time.
Father Tanveer expressed his gratitude, saying, “For many years, Aid to the Church in Need has been a great help to our diocese and especially so after this incident in Jaranwala. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to pay tribute to the staff and benefactors of ACN. Please be assured of our grateful prayers.”