BosNewsLife – A tense calm returned to Pakistan ‘s central Punjab province Sunday, November 13, after an angry mob of thousands of people set ablaze three churches and several Christian homes, including two of clergymen, as well as destroying a nuns hostel, a convent school and a nursing home, church sources said.
“I have advised our team in Pakistan to go to the area and find out more,” Pastor Boaz Gill of the Shaffaf Christian Communications Trust, which oversees several Protestant churches near the area, told BosNewsLife.
Church officials said the rampaging crowd of at least 3,000 people was protesting against the alleged desecration of the Quran, a Holy book for Muslims. Catholic Archbishop Lawrence Saldanaha told reporters the attacks took place in the Sanga Hill area, about 70 kilometers (about 44 miles) from Lahore , Pakistan ‘s second largest city.
He said the outbreak of anti-Christian violence was sparked by “unsubstantiated accusations” that a local Christian had desecrated the Koran and fiery speeches by Muslim leaders in mosques and other areas. “The attack seems to be planned and organized as the attackers were brought to the site on buses,” he added in published remarks.
200 Christian families have fled their homes in Sangla Hill, Reuters news agency quoted civil rights officials from the National Commission of Justice and Peace as saying.
Pakistan ‘s English language Dawn newspaper quoted eyewitnesses as saying that they fled an angry mob, including youths carrying kerosene oil as well as hockey sticks and iron rods, gathered in Sangla Hill after fiery speeches by local Muslim leaders.
“Obeying orders the protesters rushed to Presbyterian Church of Pakistan situated on the
The mob also burnt the residence of a pastor, identified as Tajamal Perveiz. “The enraged youth [also] went to the [Catholic] Church of Holy Spirit in the Mancher Colony and vandalized it as well as the residence of Father Semson Dilawar,” Dawn reported.
Another church, as well as the
Police used tear-gas shells and resorted to baton charge to disperse the crowd, Pakistani media reported. At least 40 people have reportedly been arrested as police forces began restoring law and order in the town. The latest violence has underscored concern among human rights activists about what they say as growing persecution of Christians in Pakistan .
It came over a week after a Pakistani pastor and another Christian were shot in another area near Lahore . Pastor Indrias Masih was beaten and shot in his left ear on November 5, as a punishment for informing police about Muslim attacks the previous day in the village of Nial Da Wera, about 96 kilometers (60 miles) outside Lahore, said the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).
Another active Christian in the village, identified as Binyamin was shot November 4 on Eid day, the end of the Muslim month of fasting known as ‘Ramadan’, explained Nasir Saeed, coordinator of CLAAS which provides legal and other aid to persecuted Christians. Believers, including women and children, were also attacked and Christian villagers have now fled that area, BosNewsLife reported earlier Sunday, November 13.
Christians account for less than three percent of Pakistan ‘s 150 million, mainly Muslim, population. Human rights watchers have expressed concern that Muslim extremism will increase as Muslim militants view Christianity as a religion from the United States which is currently cooperating with Pakistan ‘s government in a war on terror.