Pakistan: Churches in Faisalabad attacked over blasphemy claims

16 August, 2023 | Srishti Ruchandani

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The provincial police chief said, "There are narrow lanes in which small two to three marla churches are located and there is one main church. they have vandalised portions of the churches."

Multiple churches have been vandalised in the Jaranwala district of Pakistan’s Faisalabad on Wednesday over blasphemy allegations, Pakistan-based Dawn reported citing officials. 
Speaking to Dawn, Imran Bhatti, the pastor of the Jaranwala tehsil said that the Salvation Army Church, United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church and Shehroonwala Church located in Isa Nagri region were ransacked. Bhatti further said that the house of a Christian cleaner, who was accused of blasphemy, has also been demolished. 

Punjab police chief Usman Anwar said that the police were holding negotiations with the protesters and the area had been cordoned off. 
The provincial police chief said, “There are narrow lanes [in the area] in which small two to three marla churches are located and there is one main church … they have vandalised portions of the churches.”
The official further said that efforts were being made to control the situation by situation by engaging with peace committees. The official said that the police in the province had been activated. 

Usman Anwar said, “The assistant commissioner of the area, a member of the Christian community, has also been evacuated after people turned against him,” Dawn reported. 
Meanwhile, Christian leaders said that the police remained silent spectators, the report said. 
President Bishop of the Church of Pakistan Azad Marshall said Christians were being tortured and harassed.

Bishop Azad Marshall, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Words fail me as I write this. We, Bishops, Priests and lay people are deeply pained and distressed at the Jaranwala incident in the Faisalabad District in Pakistan. A church building is being burnt as I type this message. Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been tortured and harassed having been falsely accused of violating the Holy Quran.

We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice and the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our own homeland that has just celebrated independence and freedom.”

Earlier in July, Human Rights Focus Pakistan President Naveed Walter said that the population of minorities in Pakistan has come down to 3 per cent from 23 per cent since its independence in 1947.
“There were multiple reasons behind this. One of the main reasons was when Pakistan was declared an Islamic country. In 1973, when the constitution was established, in Article 2 it was stated that Islam shall be a state religion. In Article 41 (2) it was declared that the President shall always be a Muslim always. Article 91 restated that the Prime Minister shall be a Muslim always. There were multiple amendments in the constitution in the 1980s when the dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq made the amendments in the constitution as per the Sharia law”, said Naveed Walter.

The human rights activist said that the blasphemy law was introduced in the country to target religious minorities. A large number of people have been killed and many languished in jail across Pakistan since its introduction.