By The Guardian –
Christian family accused of desecrating copy of Qur’an, setting off rampage in Faisalabad.
A Muslim crowd attacked a Christian community in eastern Pakistan on Wednesday, vandalising several churches and setting scores of houses on fire, after accusing its members of desecrating a copy of the Qur’an.
Hundreds of people armed with sticks and rocks stormed a predominantly Christian area in Faisalabad. Images on social media showed smoke rising from church buildings and people setting fire to furniture that had been dragged from them.
The attack was triggered by a group of religious zealots accusing a local Christian family of desecrating the Qur’an, according to a rescue official at the scene.
“Photos and video clips of burnt pages of the Qur’an were shared among the locals, which created an uproar,” Rana Imran Jamil, a spokesperson for the city’s 1122 rescue service, told AFP. He said four churches had been set on fire and there were no reports of injuries.
A Christian leader, Akmal Bhatti, told Reuters that the crowd had torched at least five churches and looted valuables from houses that had been abandoned by their owners after clerics made announcements in mosques inciting the mob.
The Right Rev Azad Marshall, a bishop in the neighbouring city of Lahore, said the Christian community was “deeply pained and distressed”.
“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,” he posted on Twitter, which is now known as X.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in ultra-conservative Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures can face the death penalty.
Islamist rightwing leaders and political parties across the country frequently rally around the issue, politicians have been assassinated, European countries threatened with nuclear annihilation and students lynched over blasphemy allegations.
Christians make up about 2% of the population, occupy one of the lowest rungs in Pakistani society and are frequently targeted with spurious and unfounded blasphemy allegations.
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