Christians in Pakistan are asking for urgent prayer after a mob of Muslim extremists attacked a Christian community and burned down several churches and homes. The violence took place in the city of Jaranwala in Punjab Province after two Christians were accused of blasphemy.
Hundreds of men then stormed the community, attacking churches, setting homes on fire and even destroying a cemetery. Early media and human rights groups estimate that at least eight churches were burned – along with multiple homes belonging to Christians – and 17 churches were targeted. Christians in the community were forced to run for their lives.
“The attacks have been fierce and unrelenting. Hate speeches and announcements from mosques were broadcast all over Jaranwala,” says Peter*, a local believer. “In the blink of an eye, the mob went from 100 people at one location to 4,000 people at various Christian [communities] all over Jaranwala and nearby locations.”
Video from the National Commission for Human Rights in Pakistan shows the aftermath of the violence on a Salvation Army church:
Accusations of blasphemy are often made to target and oppress minority groups in Pakistan, and even an accusation can result in mob violence. “The frequency and scale of such attacks – which are systematic, violent and often uncontainable – appear to have increased in the last several years,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told Reuters.
Local believers are suspicious about the timing of the blasphemy accusations. The First Investigation Report (FIR) was filed with police just hours before the violence began. “It is no coincidence that mosques around the city started broadcasting hate speeches, which led to mob attacks all over the city,” says an activist from a local church plant. “How did all the mosques get hold of this information? How were they able to assemble so many people if there were no advanced planning? No one is answering our questions! But we will wait for justice.”
“This is a case of planned persecution towards us as a minority,” says an affected Christian leader, who cannot be named for security reasons. “If the accusers were emotionally charged and were ‘unable to control themselves’ from attacking places of worship or houses of the victims, how then were they able to register an FIR before or even almost near the time of the attack?”
The day after the attack, 146 people were arrested by Pakistani authorities as they began to investigate the situation. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar wrote on social media: “Stern action would be taken against those who violate law and target minorities. All law enforcement has been asked to apprehend culprits and bring them to justice.”
A local Christian living in the affected area commented: “In the aftermath, residents began returning to, what are now, the ruins of their homes. There is severe fear among the community of Jaranwala about another attack. This fear is not limited to those who live there. The Christian leadership is also acutely aware and concerned about the risk, urging Christians to be cautious and vigilant. The community is scattered and reeling from the pain of this torture they have been subjected to.”
More than anything, they need our prayers. They have walked through a dark moment in their lives, yet they have held on to their faith. As the body of Christ, let us cry out to the Lord for justice and restoration for the land of Pakistan.
Father God, please bring an end to violence against Christian communities in Pakistan. Please give courage and strength to those following You in such difficult circumstances. May the two Christians accused of blasphemy be treated fairly and kept safe, and any false accusations be dismissed. I pray for Your loving presence as affected communities begin to build. Amen.
Pray for people who lost all their belongings, important documents and paperwork and valuable items. As they start rebuilding their lives, may they have God’s grace and favour at every step.
Pray for church leaders as they shepherd their flock through this difficult time. They also lost their homes and everything they had worked very hard for in their ministry. May they be a source of encouragement to the believers in the community.
Pray for believers who may be traumatised by the incident, especially new Christians and young children, that they will have access to the help they need and experience the warmth of God’s presence in their lives with each passing day.
Pray for the police, government officials and judges as they investigate the incident and initiate legal proceedings. May they have the wisdom to differentiate lies from the truth and stay impartial in their work.
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