After Jaranwala, Christians in Sargodha face the mob

Published May 27, 2024
Rev Samson Sohail,  executive director of United Council of Churches, and other leaders from the Christian community  protest against the Sargodha incident in Islamabad’s G-7 sector on Sunday. — White Star
Rev Samson Sohail, executive director of United Council of Churches, and other leaders from the Christian community protest against the Sargodha incident in Islamabad’s G-7 sector on Sunday. — White Star

Once again, a Christian family faced the wrath of a mob, which burnt their house and factory over yet another accusation of blasphemy. The claim was the family desecrated the holy Quran.

The incident in Sargodha is a heart-wrenching reminder of the unchecked mob violence that continues to plague our nation. Mobsters vandalised property and attempted to lynch a man after accusing him of blasphemy. Social media footage showed a mob surrounding a bloodied man and others, including teenagers, wrecking furniture. Another video showed a large blaze outside a house.

A statement from the Minority Rights March also said that videos of the incident showed the mob lynching a 70-year-old man “on the instigation of a local cleric” while the man’s home and factory were set ablaze.

Did this injured person surrounded by mob in the videos know at the time of the Jaranwala incident that he and his family would be next?

The videos of the attack clearly show officers of the Punjab police present there as silent spectators, which points towards their tacit approval and facilitation of the terrorists involved in the attack. Sargodha police claim to have arrested 15 people involved in the incident.

But the question is that 15 people were arrested in the Jaranwala case as well, and in dozens of previous cases of mob attacks on churches, Christianhomes and colonies. Were any of the attackers punished?

The Pakistani government has repeatedly failed to stop these horrific incidents from occurring. How many more innocent lives need to be shattered before something changes?

It is time for the world to take notice and for the Pakistani authorities to act decisively to protect Christians as citizens of Pakistan. We must stand together against this injustice and demand an end to this senseless violence.

What is more painful is that many people continue to claim on social media that Christians desecrate the holy Quran. This cycle of violence should end. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been misused for far too long, serving as a tool for personal vendettas and religious persecution.

Furthermore, there must be accountability for those who incite and participate in mob violence. The silent complicity of the police and other authorities cannot continue. Those who fail to protect the innocent and uphold the rule of law must be held accountable.

The government must take concrete steps to promote interfaith harmony and protect the rights of all its citizens. Educational reforms are needed to promote tolerance and understanding among different religious communities while media and civil society must also play a role in countering hate speech and promoting peace.

The voice of the marginalised and persecuted must be heard. We must amplify their cries for justice and stand in solidarity with them. The pain and suffering of Christian families in Pakistan are not just their burden to bear but a stain on the conscience of the entire nation. It is time for change, and it is time for justice. Enough is enough. — The writer is a human rights activist. She tweets @SaimaWilliams1

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2024

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