At ‘mob’s mercy’, Christians cry out for justice

Published August 17, 2023
People gather at a church building vandalized by protesters in Jaranwala on August 16. — Reuters
People gather at a church building vandalized by protesters in Jaranwala on August 16. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: As a mob burnt down churches and houses of the Christian community over an un­ve­rified case of blasphemy in Jar­­anwala on Wednesday, memb­ers of the religious minorities cried out for justice and said they were left at the mercy of the angry mob.

Church of Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshall said in a tweet on X (formerly 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.”

He added 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,” Bishop Marshall added.

In a statement, Minorities Alliance Pakistan Chairman Akmal Bhatti said that the government and local administration failed to protect the lives and property of Christian residents.

“Announcements were made in mosques to attack the Christian colony and people were incited,” he said adding that despite this, the police officers could not deploy the necessary security for the protection of the colony and the property in time.

The alliance said victims were left at the mercy of the mob and the extremist organisations were given a free hand to attack the homes of poor people belonging to the Christian community. He claimed some conspirators, for their personal interest and enmity, levelled allegations against a Christian boy, Raja Masih. The alliance demanded the caretaker chief minister and the caretaker prime minister visit the area and provide morale as well as financial support to the victims.

Pakistan Catholic Bishop’s Conference Archbishop Dr Joseph Arshad demanded the Punjab government take stern action against the elements who attacked the public property and those who encouraged such miscreants, involved in the desecration of churches and the Holy Bible.

Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) President Michelle Chaudhry expressed anger over the incident. “Pakistan has yet again failed to protect the lives and properties of its citizens, false accusations of blasphemy continue to be on the rise in Pakistan leading to targeted mob violence; crowds are provoked on religious sentiments to settle personal scores and dispense mob justice.”

Ms Chaudhry added that the situation has now reached beyond the application of laws for justice to where crowds and police are repeatedly setting precedents for street justice, and this violates the Constitution and the Penal Code of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) said that till August 16, 2023, around 198 persons have been accused of blasphemy, 85 per cent of them Muslims, 9pc Ahmadis and 4.4pc Christians.

At least 2,120 persons were accused of committing blasphemy from 1987 to 2022, read the tweet by the CSJ. They added that Punjab recorded over 75pc of the abuse of blasphemy laws cases in the past 36 years. “The aggregate accused comprises 52pc of minorities despite their share (3.52pc) in the population of Pakistan,” the CSJ added.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2023

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