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Several churches were burned in Pakistan following blasphemy allegations

2016 Pakistan

Police in Pakistan have arrested more than 100 people for attacking at least 21 churches and vandalizing dozens of homes in Pakistan’s Punjab province over allegations that two Christian men had desecrated a copy of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.

Thousands of Muslims led violent riots, burning churches and vandalizing homes, in a Christian colony in the city of Jaranwala on Wednesday. The unrest was ignited by claims that pages were torn from a Quran and blasphemous content was scribbled on them.

Police arrived at the scene about 10 hours later, residents and community leaders told Reuters, which said the police have denied that, saying they prevented even worse damage. Usman Anwar, the police chief in Punjab province, was quoted as saying that the lack of intervention was aimed at avoiding loss of lives by not escalating tension.

Catholic bishops have sought tough action against those who set 21 churches on fire, including the historic Salvation Army Church, and vandalized Christian homes, according to UCA News.

The Christian men falsely accused of tearing pages from a Quran, identified as Rocky Masih and Raja Masih, have also been arrested and are under investigation for blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan, according to the BBC. Although no one has been executed for blasphemy in the country, mere accusations can lead to large-scale riots, lynchings and killings.


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