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Churches and Homes are Burned, and Many Christians Displaced, in Latest Attack

08/17/2023 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Several Christian communities, including dozens of churches and homes, were attacked on Wednesday by angry mobs that rampaged through Faisalabad after accusing two teenagers of allegedly desecrating the Quran. Police arrested more than 100 Muslims for attacking the Christian neighborhoods, burning churches, homes, and vehicles.  

The violence took place in Jaranwala, in the district of Faisalabad in Punjab province. The accusations of blasphemy against the teenagers riled radical Muslims who in turn targeted Christians, causing many families to flee for their lives. The attackers accused the teens of tearing out pages from a Quran, throwing them on the ground and writing insulting remarks on other pages. Christian leaders and others said it was a false accusation. 

“The mobs have burned different settlements of Christians,” said a local International Christian Concern (ICC) staffer who visited the area but was turned away. “It’s not just a few churches or the house of the accused. The condition here is worse. What we see in the media does not come close to reflecting the damage that has been done. Police and rangers are all over place and blocked the areas so people can’t see the damage.” 

Witnesses said that news of the alleged blasphemy spread like fire in the city and surrounding areas. One man entered a mosque, and in a very violent speech, said they should respond and attack the perpetrators. Thousands of Muslims came with batons, sticks and steel rods to attack the Christian houses and churches.  

Nearly 30 churches were attacked, and at least 10 set ablaze. In addition, about 50 homes were ransacked, hundreds of Bibles and Christian literature were burned, and thousands of people were displaced. 

The Christian families have long been a part of the community, living peacefully and harmoniously with their neighbors of different faiths. The blasphemy allegations, however, triggered a wave of discrimination and violence. 

This incident not only highlights the vulnerability of religious minorities in Pakistan but also raises concerns about the misuse of blasphemy laws. Pakistan’s constitutional endorsement of Islam and blasphemy laws make it easier for Christians to be imprisoned or killed. 

These laws were introduced in the 1980s and have been controversial. While the laws were meant to protect religious sentiments, they have often been misused to settle personal scores, incite violence, and target Christians and minority communities.  

Blasphemy allegations carry severe penalties, including imprisonment and, in some cases, the death penalty. These laws, unfortunately, have created an environment of fear and discrimination for Christians. 

The incident in Faisalabad is not isolated but rather a manifestation of the growing religious intolerance and violence in Pakistan. Extremist ideologies and sectarian tensions have fueled a climate of hatred, making religious minorities vulnerable to persecution. Christians have been ostracized and violently attacked and discriminated against. 

In 2022, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for integrating Islamic fundamentalism into its official government policies and hindering religious freedom. The U.S. Department of State also included Pakistan as a CPC last year. And for the past two years, ICC included Pakistan in its comprehensive Persecutor of the Year reports.