IBNS: Several churches in Pakistan’s Jaranwala region were vandalised by an angry mob over blasphemy allegations on Wednesday.
Christian leader Akmal Bhatti told Dawn News the crowd had torched at least five churches and looted valuables from houses abandoned by their owners after clerics made announcements in mosques inciting the mob.
Images circulating on social media showed smoke coming out from church buildings.
Jaranwala pastor Imran Bhatti told Dawn News that the ransacked churches included the Salvation Army Church, United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church and Shehroonwala Church situated in the Isa Nagri area.
He added the mob demolished the house of a Christian cleaner, accused of blasphemy.
A first information report has also been registered against the accused under sections 295B (defiling, etc., of the Holy Quran) and 295C (use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Speaking to Dawn News, Punjab police chief Usman Anwar said the police negotiated with the protesters and the area had been cordoned off.
“There are narrow lanes [in the area] in which small two to three marla churches are located and there is one main church … they have vandalised portions of the churches,” he said.
President Bishop of the Church of Pakistan Azad Marshall condemned the incident and tweeted: “Words fail me as I write this. We, Bishops, Priests and lay people are deeply pained and distressed at the Jaranwala incident in the Faisalabad District in Pakistan. A church building is being burnt as I type this message. Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been tortured and harrased having been falsely accused of violating the Holy Quran. 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 that has just celebrated independence and freedom. #CryWithUs #PrayWithUs.”
Former interior minister Rana Sanaullah described the incidents as a ‘dastardly attack’.
Condemning the incident, he posted on X: “Strongly condemn the dastardly attack on the church in Jaranwala today. The culprits must be brought to justice at the earliest, and the law should take its due course. Extremism and hatred nullify the fundamental principles of Islam.”
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said he was horrified to hear about the incidents.
“Horrified to hear about the attack on Churches in Jaranwala, Faisalabad, Violating the sanctity of places of worship is absolutely unacceptable. The administration must ensure the safety of the Christian community and their Churches,” Bhutto said.