Pakistan: Recurring False Accusations of Blasphemy Against Christians

Source: FSSPX News

Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Faisalabad

Several churches were set on fire in Faisalabad, northeast Pakistan, on Wednesday after residents accused a young man from the Christian minority community of committing blasphemy, a serious and even fatal charge in this Asian country.

Hundreds of Muslims have attacked a Christian community in eastern Pakistan, vandalizing several churches and a cemetery and burning dozens of homes, after accusing its members of desecrating a copy of the Koran. The mob raided three Presbyterian churches, a Catholic Church, a Full Gospel Assembly Church, and a Salvation Army church with sticks, stones and explosives. Windows of the churches were smashed and some portions of the churches were gutted in arson attacks.

Hundreds of people armed with sticks and stones stormed a predominantly Christian area of Faisalabad on Wednesday. Footage circulating on social media shows smoke rising from churches and people setting fire to furniture.

The attack was sparked by a group of Muslims excited by preaching and calls for revenge, accusing a local Christian family of desecrating the Koran, according to a rescue service official present at the scene. “Photos and videos of burnt Quran pages were circulated among residents, causing outrage,” Rana Imran Jamil, spokesperson for the city's 1122 rescue service, told AFP. He said four churches were burned down and no injuries were reported.

A Christian leader, Akmal Bhatti, told Reuters that mobs burned down at least five churches and looted valuables from homes abandoned by their owners after clerics made announcements at mosques urging crowds to take action. The attackers also vandalized houses belonging to Christians, which caused members of this minority, which represents 1.27% of the Pakistani population according to the last census, to flee the city.

The young Christian “was accused of tearing pages from the Koran and writing blasphemous words against the Prophet Muhammad,” Naveed added.

With the police unable to control the crowds, authorities said they called in the militarized Rangers police unit.

The offense of blasphemy was created during British colonial times and toughened by dictator Mohamed Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. It carries the death penalty in Pakistan, although no one has yet been executed for this motive.

In the best-known case of a blasphemy charge leveled against a member of the Christian minority was that of Asia Bibi who was sentenced to death in 2010 but was eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2018, sparking massive protests .

But death still prowls. Thus, accusations of insulting Islam often lead to attacks and lynchings against those presumed guilty. That's what happened last February, when a mob stormed a police station in eastern Pakistan and beat to death a man they accused of desecrating the Koran.