Multiple Churches Vandalised in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala over Blasphemy Allegations

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An enraged mob vandalised several churches in the Jaranwala tehsil of Faisalabad, Pakistan on Wednesday following blasphemy allegations. The paramilitary Rangers were called to the area to restore order, according to officials.

According to Akmal Bhatti, a Christian leader, the mob torched at least five churches and looted valuables from abandoned houses after clerics incited the mob through announcements made in mosques. Images on social media showed smoke rising from the church buildings and people setting fire to furniture dragged from them. The local government office and a Christian cemetery were also vandalised.

The mob also demolished the house of a Christian cleaner who was accused of blasphemy. The police registered a first information report against the accused under relevant sections of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The provincial chief secretary and Punjab police chief Usman Anwar were present at the scene, claiming that the situation was under control. Anwar stated that the police were negotiating with the protesters, and the area had been cordoned off. Efforts were being made to contain the situation by engaging with peace committees, and the police across the province had been mobilised.

Religious leaders from the Pakistan Ulema Council and International Interfaith Harmony Council visited Jaranwala to address the situation. They emphasised the shared responsibility of safeguarding worship places and residences of all communities, asserting that the protection of religious places was not only the duty of the Muslim populace but also a responsibility upheld by the state.

Various political leaders, including Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, and Sherry Rehman, condemned the incident and called for the safety and protection of the Christian community. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also condemned the attack, demanding that the perpetrators be identified and punished according to the law.

This incident is just one of many that have occurred in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations. According to a report by the Centre for Research and Security Studies, as many as 89 citizens have been killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy since independence in 1947. The report highlights the need for amendments to blasphemy laws to prevent misuse and false accusations.

It is crucial for the Pakistani government to take immediate action to safeguard religious minorities and prevent such attacks in the future. Upholding justice, protection, and equal rights for all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, is essential to maintaining peace and harmony in the country.

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