Frenzied mob violence forces 1000 Christians to flee their homes
A violent crowd ambushed a Christian colony, ransacking and vandalising churches and forcing hundreds of Christian families to flee their homes in Punjab province, Pakistan.
The mob, sparked by allegations of blasphemy against two local Christian men, demanded their execution and set churches and Christian homes on fire. Since Wednesday, the number of churches and chapels targeted has risen to 21. The Salvation Army Church, one of the area’s oldest, was destroyed. According to representatives of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the level of annihilation in Jaranwala, has been “down to the last lightbulb”.
Around 1000 Christians have been forced to sleep in sugar cane fields after fleeing their homes due to fear of more violence. At least two dozen homes were either torched or severely damaged during the riots.
The ACN representative reported that “They had been running away, trying to find somewhere where they could rest. Some of them went back to their homes desperate for something to eat but when they got home, they found everything destroyed – nothing to sit on, nothing to drink out of, not even a lightbulb. As we travelled round the area, we could see how the Christians’ homes were scattered – 50 or 60 here, two or three over there and yet every Christian home has been targeted, nothing left. In the churches they have attacked, everything is destroyed … the altar, statues – nothing is left. What they did to the statues of Jesus and Mary I cannot begin to describe.”
This violence follows the recent passage of two bills in Pakistan’s legislature that have stirred concerns among Christian and civil society groups. They have expressed concerns in regard to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws for a long time. In 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that at least 69 people were killed extrajudicially in mob violence related to blasphemy allegations since 1990.
Pakistani Archbishop Benny Travas condemned the violence and criticised the government for failing to protect Christians: “Once again, we have the same old condemnations and visits by the politicians and other government officials expressing their solidarity with the Christian community and that ‘justice will be done’ but in reality nothing materialises and all is forgotten”.
Bishop Azad Marshall, the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, tweeted: “A church building is being burnt as I type this message. Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been tortured and harassed, having been falsely accused of violating the Holy Koran. We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice and the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately.”