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Crowds Assault Churches in Pakistan Following Allegations of Quran Desecration

Hundreds of men attacked Christian communities and torched churches in a town in Pakistan on August 16 following accusations against two Christians of desecrating the sacred Quran. 

The incident occurred in Jaranwala, near Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third-most populous city.   

The Catholic News Agency reported that as many as 15 church structures were vandalized, hundreds of homes belonging to Christians demolished, and thousands of Christians compelled to flee because of the assaults, according to Maria Lozano, head of press for the Catholic relief organization Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN).  

The violence and devastation was triggered by allegations against a pair of local Christians who were accused of committing blasphemy by disrespecting the Quran.

Pakistan’s archaic blasphemy laws date back to the British colonial era. Although people found guilty of violating the laws can be sentenced to death, the country has yet to carry out such a sentence.

Accusations of blasphemy can, however, set off riots and are often misused to target members of minority faiths as well as settle personal or political scores.

According to the religious rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the assaults seem to have been incited by the broadcast of Islamic leaders through mosque loudspeakers.

Certain Muslims alleged that they witnessed a local Christian and his companion ripping pages from a Quran, discarding them onto the ground, and defacing other pages with offensive remarks, the Associated Press reported

Footage and images shared on social media depict a furious crowd converging on a church, hurling bricks and setting it ablaze, according to the AP. In a separate video, two additional churches were targeted, with their windows shattered as assailants tossed out furniture and ignited flames. 

In the videos, a number of police officers could be seen observing the situation without taking action to halt the acts of vandalism.

The news agency added that policemen discharged their firearms into the air and used batons to disband the assailants. With the assistance of Muslim clerics and community leaders, authorities managed to quell the attackers. Additionally, law enforcement reported initiating search operations to locate all those involved in the incident. Numerous rioters were taken into custody.