Christians in Jaranwala, Pakistan, are cautiously returning to their homes following a violent attack that left up to 20 churches and dozens of Christian homes burned and looted.
The attack, perpetrated by a violent mob of Muslims, was reportedly triggered by a baseless rumor that a copy of the Koran had been desecrated by a Christian man.
According to John Pontifex, a representative from Aid to the Church in Need, the violence erupted due to an alleged blasphemy case against a Christian cleaner. Pontifex revealed that the Christian’s home was destroyed in the wake of the attack. Witnesses recounted how the local mosque’s loudspeakers broadcasted calls for violence against Christians, further escalating tensions and fear among the Christian community.
Remarkably, despite the extensive destruction, no casualties were reported. Pontifex attributed this fortunate outcome to the intervention of fellow Muslims who alerted their Christian neighbors ahead of the attack, allowing them to seek safety in advance. Pontifex expressed gratitude for their kindness and acknowledged that the situation could have been far worse without their timely warning.
In response to the violence, Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, condemned the attacks and called for justice to be served. He criticized Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and urged authorities to take action against those responsible for the attacks, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the rights and safety of all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Pakistan’s Christian minority, constituting about 2 percent of the country’s population, has been subjected to recurrent acts of violence. The predominantly Muslim nation with a population of approximately 248 million has grappled with religious tensions and persecution of non-Muslim communities.
The recent attacks took place in the town of Jaranwala, situated within the Diocese of Faisalabad. Numerous churches, including a Catholic and a Presbyterian church, were set ablaze, and clergy members were targeted and assaulted. Criticism has been directed at local law enforcement for their perceived sluggish response to the situation.
Posts on Twitter show the severity and damages of this attack on the christians, with calls for help and intervention.
— Faraz Pervaiz (@FarazPervaiz3) August 16, 2023
Bishop of Raiwind and Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, The Most Revd Dr Azad Marshall, voiced his profound distress over the incident. He described the church buildings’ destruction, the desecration of Bibles, and the unjust treatment of Christians who were falsely accused of violating the Holy Koran. Bishop Marshall appealed for immediate intervention from law enforcement and justice authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of all citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation.
Amid these disheartening events, attention has also turned to Sweden, where authorities have raised the terrorist threat level due to threats from Muslim fundamentalist groups. Earlier this year, copies of the Koran were desecrated by anti-Islam activists, prompting condemnation from Pope Francis. The Pope expressed his deep disappointment at such actions that disregard the beliefs of others.
As Christians in Jaranwala begin to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the violent attack, calls for justice, religious tolerance, and protection of minority rights continue to resonate both within Pakistan and on the global stage.