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Christians in Pakistan Under Attack as Mobs Riot Over Alleged Quran Burning

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In a tragic turn of events, the peaceful town of Jaranwala in Pakistan's Faisalabad district became the epicenter of violence and destruction as mobs descended upon Christian communities, leaving a trail of burnt churches and desecrated buildings in their wake. The unrest, triggered by allegations of Quran desecration, has resulted in a mass exodus of Christians from their homes and has highlighted the precarious state of religious freedom in the region.

Photo credit: Movidagrafica Barcelona

Photo credit: Movidagrafica Barcelona


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/16/2023 (9 months ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Christians, Pakistan, attack, mobs, violence, unrest, Islamic

On Wednesday, the town was plunged into chaos as several mobs launched attacks on Christian communities and set fire to multiple churches. Reports indicate that up to 15 church buildings were vandalized, while hundreds of Christian homes were razed to the ground. The scale of the destruction is shocking, with witnesses recounting how furniture was thrown out into the streets and churches were set ablaze by the angry mobs.

The catalyst for this violence was the accusation against two local Christians, Rocky Masih and Raja Masih, of defiling the Quran. In Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation, such allegations are considered blasphemy, a charge that carries severe penalties, including life imprisonment. The local Islamic leaders' broadcasts over mosque loudspeakers seemed to have fueled the already charged atmosphere, urging the community to take matters into their own hands.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a religious rights group, reported that the mobs were incited by messages broadcast from mosques, which called on people to "go out and kill" Christians. This hostile environment forced around 2,000 Christians to flee their homes, resulting in a mass exodus from the town. The plight of the fleeing community members is heartbreaking, as they grapple with the loss of their belongings and the uncertainty of where to find refuge.

Maria Lozano, the head of press for the Catholic relief group Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN), expressed her concern about the situation. She confirmed that witnesses had reported the alarming messages from mosques encouraging violence against Christians. The attackers showed no signs of relenting, even in the face of firefighters and police attempting to intervene. Churches and homes were set ablaze, and chaos continued to reign.

St. Paul Catholic Church, a symbol of faith and community, was among the places targeted by the mobs. Father Abid Tanveer, the vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad, who witnessed the ongoing attacks firsthand, expressed his dismay over the situation. He revealed that the Christian population was gripped by fear, unsure of their fate and future. The attacks have not only left physical scars but also deep psychological trauma within the community.

Despite the widespread destruction and terror inflicted upon the Christian community, it is a glimmer of relief that there have been no reported casualties so far. According to Lozano, the Christians were able to escape the violence, having been warned in advance. This escape, however, should not overshadow the grim reality that religious intolerance and violence have once again scarred a community and torn apart the fabric of a town that was once known for its peaceful coexistence.

As the dust settles on the charred remains of churches and homes, the incident in Jaranwala serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for interfaith understanding, tolerance, and protection of religious minorities. It is a call to action for authorities and community leaders to work together to ensure that such violence is prevented in the future and that all citizens can live and worship without fear of persecution. Only through such efforts can the wounds inflicted by this tragedy begin to heal and the town of Jaranwala regain its lost tranquility.

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