Blasphemy Allegations Fuel Violent Protests and Attacks on Churches in Jaranwala, Pakistan
What Really Happened In Jaranwala Faisalabad Pakistan
Faisalabad, August 16, 2023: Jaranwala has witnessed a surge of violence and unrest following allegations of blasphemy against Christian brothers, Raja Amir Saleem and Rocky Saleem, from the Cinema Basti area. The accusations led to aggressive protests, resulting in the attack on three local churches and numerous Christian residences.
Mansoor Sadiq, the police inspector stationed at the Jandanwala city Police station, was at Cinema Chowk, Jaranwala when Muhammad Afzal, Noor Hussain, and Muhammad Tauheed approached
him. They alleged that the Saleem brothers had desecrated the Holy Quran and produced a letter purportedly containing blasphemous comments about the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
The news spread rapidly, igniting indignation among the local Muslim community. The situation swiftly escalated into mass protests, with enraged mobs targeting churches and the homes of the Christian community. Fearing for their safety, many Christians either fled their homes or are currently hiding.
In a show of solidarity, local merchants closed their establishments, while protesters blocked major intersections, notably Cinema Chowk. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, law enforcement agencies responded promptly. A significant police force, led by SP Bilal Silhari of Jaranwala Town, was dispatched to the scene. In an attempt to defuse tensions, SP Silhari, accompanied by Mufti Muhammad Younis Rizvi, addressed the agitated crowd, urging peace and promising swift action against the accused. Despite these assurances, some factions remained adamant, demanding severe punitive measures against the accused.
Local mosques have further heightened tensions by broadcasting announcements condemning Christians. An official complaint has been lodged under sections 295B and C in relation to the blasphemy incident.
Disturbing images and videos from the scene have begun circulating on social media, showcasing the extent of the devastation. Two major churches, St. John and St. Peter, were reportedly vandalized and set ablaze. Several Christian homes in the vicinity also suffered damage from the mob’s actions.
Shedding light on the incident, local resident Advocate Ashraf stated that the Saleem family was burning waste paper when they were accused of desecrating pages of the Holy Quran. This news spread rapidly, provoking an immediate and aggressive backlash from the community. He further
mentioned that there are about four Christian villages in the surrounding area. Most of the roads are blocked by protesters, and he said, “I am trying to reach my family; I don’t even know their exact location right now.”
Usman Anwar, Punjab’s Inspector General for Police, confirmed that negotiations are ongoing with the protesters. He also reported that a mob set the office of a Christian assistant commissioner on fire. However, the official was safely evacuated from the scene.
As events continue to unfold, fresh reports of church burnings, including the Salvation Army Church, United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church, and Shehroon wala Church in the Isa Nagri area, are emerging. Reports of the ransacking of Christian homes and violent confrontations are also coming in from the region. The need for immediate intervention and support for the affected community is paramount.