Pakistan: Mob burns down churches and houses in Faisalabad

More than 20 church buildings have been attacked and hundreds of Christian homes destroyed after extremists rioted in Pakistan. Christians fled en masse from the Punjab town of Jaranwala, near Faisalabad, as fanatics began throwing stones and rocks and setting buildings on fire. The incident followed a blasphemy allegation against a Christian cleaner who is accused of desecrating the Quran and insulting the Prophet of Islam.

Father Abid Tanveer, Vice General of the Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad, told from his visit to Jaranwala, where he said the situation was still uncertain: “The situation is very frightening. The Christians are very scared. Please pray for our people, pray that their lives can be protected. So many people have lost everything they have. They don’t know what they are doing or where they are going.”

Riots lead to the exodus of Christians

A Christian minister said up to 2,000 people have fled their homes so far. Father Tanveer reported that more than 20 churches of different Christian denominations, a catechist’s house, and a community center were attacked and partly burned down. He said that Father Khalid, pastor of St. Paul’s, Jaranwala, had to lock himself in the vicarage when extremists surrounded it and screamed for him to come out.

Shortly thereafter, the attackers returned and torched baptismal, marriage, and death certificates kept in the parish office. According to local witnesses, the attackers began throwing furniture into the street while demanding the killing of the alleged blasphemer.

People were asked to kill Christians

A local in Faisalabad said loudspeakers were broadcasting messages from mosques urging local people to “go out and kill Christians.” A Christian in Faisalabad said: “It is appalling. We don’t know what will happen next. Another senior Pakistani cleric from Faisalabad said: “We condemn this act of brutal terrorism on the sharpest.

“The people who attack innocent Christians and burn down their houses have terrorist sentiments.”

So far there have been no reports of fatalities.

The threat is not over

Christians from Jaranwala left their homes as early as 5 a.m. yesterday after local Muslims warned them of an attack.

A senior priest said that the threat is not over and people remain “very scared”.

“We are very grateful to you for your concern and prayers. Please keep praying for us.”

Father Tanveer said additional police forces had been deployed but there was no guarantee the situation could be brought under control as the extremists were well-armed and continued to use violence in response to the alleged blasphemy incident.

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