Mob attacks Pakistani churches over blasphemy allegations

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in ultra-conservative Pakistan.

August 16, 2023 09:42 pm | Updated 09:42 pm IST - Lahore, Pakistan

Church properties were set ablaze after being attacked by a mob over blasphemy allegations, in Pakistan’s Faisalabad, on Aug 16, 2023.

Church properties were set ablaze after being attacked by a mob over blasphemy allegations, in Pakistan’s Faisalabad, on Aug 16, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Several churches were set on fire by a rampaging mob in eastern Pakistan on Wednesday after a Christian family was accused of blasphemy, officials said.

Hundreds of people armed with sticks and rocks stormed the predominantly Christian area in Faisalabad city, police in the area told AFP.

Images on social media showed smoke rising from the church buildings and people setting fire to furniture that had been dragged from them.

The attack was triggered by a group of religious zealots accusing a local Christian family of desecrating the Quran, according to a rescue official at the scene.

"Photos and video clips of burnt pages of the Quran were shared among the locals, which created an uproar," Rana Imran Jamil, a spokesman for the city's 1122 rescue service, told AFP by phone.

He said four churches had been set on fire, adding that there were no reports of injuries.

Pakistani bishop Azad Marshall, in the neighbouring city of Lahore, said the Christian community was "deeply pained and distressed".

"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," he posted on the social media platform X.

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in ultra-conservative Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures can face the death penalty.

Islamist right-wing leaders and political parties across the country frequently rally around the issue, while politicians have been assassinated, European countries threatened with nuclear annihilation and students lynched over blasphemy allegations.

Christians – who make up around two percent of the population – occupy one of the lowest rungs in Pakistani society, and are frequently targeted with spurious and unfounded blasphemy allegations.

In July of 2018, four men attacked a church in Faisalabad with 20 worshippers inside.

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