Pakistan: Mass exodus of Christians as mobs attack

During an extremist attack in Pakistan, hundreds of Christian homes were destroyed, and 15 church buildings were attacked.

Christians from the town of Jaranwala, near Faisalabad, fled en masse as fanatics threw rocks and set fire to property.

The incident followed an accusation of blasphemy against a Christian cleaner, who was alleged to have desecrated the the Qur’an and insulted the Prophet of Islam.

Father Abid Tanveer, vicar general of the Faisalabad Diocese, reported back to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) after a visit to Jaranwala, which he said was still unsafe.

“This situation is terrifying. Christians are very scared. Please pray for our people; pray that their lives may be protected. So many have lost their belongings; they’ve lost everything. They don’t know what to do or where to go.”

One Christian cleric in Pakistan said that as many as 2,000 people had already fled their homes.

Pakistan: Mass exodus of Christians as mobs burn churches and homes
One of the churches that was torched

And according to Father Tanveer, 13 churches of various denominations were attacked, many by torching, as well as a catechist’s house and a rectory.

He said that Father Khalid, parish priest of St Paul’s, Jaranwala, had to lock himself inside the rectory as extremists surrounded it, demanding that he come out.

Eventually, they left, and so did the priest. But shortly after, the attackers returned, destroying baptism, marriage, and death certificates kept in the parish office.

Local witnesses who spoke to ACN said that attackers also threw furniture out into the street, while calling for the murder of the accused.

One ACN contact in Faisalabad said that messages from mosques, delivered via loudspeaker, called on people to “go out and kill” Christians. A Christian in Faisalabad told ACN, “It is absolutely terrifying. We do not know what is going to happen next.”

Another leading clergyman in Pakistan said, “We totally condemn this act of brutal terrorism. The people who attack innocent Christians and burned their homes have a terrorist mindset.”

As of yet, no deaths have been reported.

Christians from Jaranwala left their homes as early as 5:00 A.M. on August 16, after local Muslims warned them that an attack was coming.

A senior priest told ACN that the threat had not passed and people remained “very frightened.”

“We are so grateful for your concern and your prayers,” he added. “Please keep praying for us.”

Father Tanveer said that additional police had been deployed, but there was no guarantee that the situation would be controlled. The extremists were well armed and still intent on violence in response to the alleged blasphemy.

—John Pontifex