September 23, 2023

By Asim Tanveer and Munir Ahmed | Related Press

MULTAN, Pakistan — Muslims in japanese Pakistan went on a rampage Wednesday over allegations {that a} Christian man had desecrated the Quran, demolishing the person’s home, burning church buildings and damaging a number of different properties, police and native Christians mentioned. There have been no fast experiences of casualties.

The size of the violence prompted the federal government to deploy further police forces and ship within the military to assist restore order.

The assaults in Jaranwala, within the district of Faisalabad in Punjab province, erupted after some Muslims residing within the space claimed that they had seen a neighborhood Christian, Raja Amir, and his pal tearing out pages from a Quran, throwing them on the bottom and writing insulting remarks on different pages.

Police chief Rizwan Khan mentioned this had angered the native Muslims. A mob gathered and started attacking a number of church buildings and several other Christian properties, burning furnishings and different home goods. Some members of the Christian group fled their properties to flee the mob.

Police ultimately intervened, firing into the air and wielding batons earlier than dispersing the attackers with the assistance of Muslim clerics and elders. Authorities additionally mentioned they’ve began launching raids in an effort to seek out all of the perpetrators. Dozens of rioters had been arrested.

Police chief Bilal Mehmood informed reporters they had been additionally in search of Amir, who went into hiding to flee the mob, and would detain him to find out whether or not he had desecrated the Quran.

Movies and pictures posted on social media present an offended mob descending upon a church, throwing items of bricks and burning it. In one other video, two different church buildings are attacked, their home windows damaged as attackers throw furnishings out and set it on fireplace.

A number of policemen are seen within the movies watching the state of affairs with out intervening to cease the vandalism.

In one more video, a person is seen climbing to the roof of the church and eradicating the metal cross after repeatedly hitting it with a hammer as the gang down on the highway cheered him on.

Khalid Mukhtar, a neighborhood priest, mentioned a lot of the Christians residing within the space had fled to safer locations. “Even my home was burned,” he added.

Mukhtar mentioned there are 17 church buildings in Jaranwala and he believes most of them had been attacked. The authorities didn’t instantly affirm that determine.

Father Gulshan Barkat, who teaches church historical past on the Nationwide Catholic Institute of Theology in Karachi, described the blasphemy allegations as a “false accusation” and mentioned the native mosques had been additionally in charge as a result of loudspeakers erected on minarets had earlier within the day known as on Muslims to collect and “assault the church buildings and Christian group.”

“The emotion of our Muslim brethren flares up in a short time, even at rumour,” he mentioned.

Not one of the clerics at Jaranwala mosques might be reached to substantiate the allegation in regards to the loudspeakers.

Khan mentioned further police forces had been later deployed and an investigation was underway. He mentioned all concerned within the assault could be prosecuted. “Our first precedence was to save lots of the lives of the entire Christians,” he mentioned.

Later within the night, troops arrived to assist the police. Indignant Muslims had been urged to return to their properties, allegedly with guarantees that the person who desecrated the Quran would quickly be arrested.

A delegation of Muslim clerics additionally arrived in Jaranwala from the town of Lahore to specific solidarity with the Christians.

Blasphemy accusations are frequent in Pakistan. Underneath the nation’s blasphemy legal guidelines, anybody discovered responsible of insulting Islam or Islamic non secular figures may be sentenced to loss of life. Whereas authorities have but to hold out a loss of life sentence for blasphemy, usually simply the accusation may cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.

In one of many worst assaults on Christians, a mob in 2009 burned an estimated 60 properties and killed six Christians within the district of Gojra in Punjab, after accusing them of insulting Islam.

Wednesday’s assault drew nationwide condemnation from high leaders and main political events. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar mentioned he was “gutted” by the photographs popping out of Faisalabad.

“Stern motion could be taken towards those that violate legislation and goal minorities. All legislation enforcement has been requested to apprehend culprits & deliver them to justice,” he wrote on the social media platform X, previously referred to as Twitter.

A senior Christian chief, Bishop Azad Marshall, appealed for assistance on social media and mentioned he was “deeply pained and distressed.”