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295-B and 295-C of the blasphemy
statutes. Section 295-B relates to
desecration of the Koran and carries
a punishment of life in prison. Section
295-C relates to insulting Mohammed
and is punishable by death.
Thousands of Muslims, led by local
leaders of Islamist extremist parties
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and the
Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Movement,
launched attacks on churches and
homes of Christians in the area.
‘Over 20 churches, more than 200
homes and shops, and several vehicles
were burnt and destroyed by the mobs,’
area evangelist Imran Bhatti said.
Bhatti was one of the few Christians
who stayed behind while hundreds
of others fled their homes as soon
as they heard announcements from
mosques calling on Muslims to
protest against the alleged blasphemy.
More than 5,000 Christians live in
Jaranwala, most of them sanitary
workers on meagre wages who
occupy cramped homes.
‘The mobs not only burned and looted
our churches and homes, they also
vandalised our graveyard and the
office of the assistant commissioner,
who is also a Christian,’ Bhatti told
Kamran Bashir, a 55-year-old
Christian, was one of those forced
to flee.
‘They broke the windows, doors and
took out fridges, sofas, chairs and
other household items to pile them up
in front of the church to be burned,’ he
said. ‘They also burned and desecrated
Bibles; they were ruthless.’
Videos on social media show
protesters destroying Christian
possessions while police appear to
look on.
A mother identified only as Nasreen
fled with her four children. ‘We just
left without dressing,’ she told MSN.
‘We picked up our children and
just ran.’
Nasreen and her family were among
several people who spent the hot and
humid night in fields. She added that
there were also girls and women who
lay flat on the roofs of their homes in
scorching heat to hide from vandals
setting fire to their belongings in the
According to Human Rights Focus
Pakistan (HRFP) 19 churches were
completely gutted by the attacks and
destroyed. Two further churches were
damaged along with community halls
and prayer rooms. More than 400
houses were affected.
The report stated that more than
10,000 Christians had hid in sugar
cane and other fields during the first
nights of attack.
Release International partners Lahore
Evangelical Ministries (LEM) were
among the first to visit the area.
Rev Waseem Khokhar of LEM said
there had been an announcement
over mosque loudspeakers in the
Jaranwala district of Faisalabad early
on August 16 that torn pages of the
Muslim holy book were lying in the
street of the Christian town.
‘So, all Muslims were encouraged to
gather and attack the Christian town
of 350 houses, and to protest against
the insult.
‘A mob of around a thousand people
got together and attacked the town.
Very sadly, within a couple of hours five
main churches and 40 Christian houses
were burnt down.
‘Praise God that there were no injuries
or deaths of any Christians because,
after the announcement, they managed
to flee from their town and left
everything behind to save their lives.
They hid themselves at different places
in the fields nearby.’
BBC Urdu reported: ‘Amir Mir, the
information minister for Punjab
province, condemned the alleged
blasphemy and said in a statement
that thousands of police had been
sent to the area, with dozens of people
Church of Pakistan bishop Azad
Marshall said the Christian
community was ‘deeply pained and
distressed’ by the events.
‘We cry out for justice and action
from law enforcement and those
who dispense justice, to intervene
immediately and assure us that
our lives are valuable in our own
homeland,’ he posted on X (formerly
Christians protest
after the attack
on Jaranwala
Homes and churches
were destroyed in the
attack Photo: Aid to
the Church in Need/
Rev Iftikhar Indryas
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