Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is gravely concerned by yesterday’s violence against the Christian community of Jaranwala, Faisalabad-Punjab, Pakistan. MRG strongly condemns the attack by the violent mob on Christian community members’ homes and the significant damage caused to a number of churches in the locality.
It urges the authorities to ensure that those responsible for the violence are brought to justice. The Christian community members affected should be offered full compensation and appropriate psychological support to address the resulting trauma. MRG further calls upon the government of Pakistan to respect, protect and promote the right to freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens.
After accusing two Christians of blasphemy, a crowd of hundreds of Muslim men attacked the community. The situation escalated after announcements inciting the mob were made from local mosques’ loudspeakers of the alleged desecration of the Qur’an by the two Christians. The accused have been formally charged with blasphemy offences.
Churches were ransacked and one was set on fire. Hundreds of Christians have reportedly fled for their lives. Valuables were looted from abandoned houses. Despite the presence of police, the mob was not brought under control. Crowds chanted slogans in favour of Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a far-right extreme Islamist party, and Khatam-e-Nabuwat, another extremist organisation.
These attacks are just one instance of a repeated pattern of mobs using accusations of blasphemy as a pretext for violence against religious minorities in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan must take immediate action to stop this pattern, and to address the rise of feelings of religious intolerance that have been linked to an upsurge in mob justice.
Considering the government of Pakistan recently led controversial diplomatic efforts at the United Nations to draw attention to state duties to protect religious symbols and artefacts, the way in which it responds to this episode of violence will be telling of the extent to which it means what is says. While its efforts at the United Nations were focused on the Qur’an and were international, the principle is the same for all religious communities whether abroad or at home.
Photo: Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, centre, and Muslim clerics Maulana Muhammad Asim Makhdoom, right, and Mufti Syed Ashiq Hussain, give a press conference regarding Jaranwala’s Muslim mob attack and burnt churches, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore, Pakistan. 16 August 2023. Credit: Associated Press/Alamy Stock Photo/K.M. Chaudary