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Pakistan: Eight churches set ablaze in Punjab province after accusations of blasphemy

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, any Christian could be accused and mob violence ensue.

A small number of the Christians in Pakistan are Orthodox. Orthodox Christians in Pakistan are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Singapore and South Asia, which comprises all the Orthodox Communities, Parishes, Foundations and Philanthropic Projects in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Brunei, Timor, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as well as Pakistan.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“Eight churches set ablaze in Pakistan’s Punjab province after accusations of blasphemy,” by Sophia Saifi and Azaz Syed, CNN, August 16, 2023:

A crowd vandalized eight churches and several homes following accusations of blasphemy against Islam in Pakistan’s most populated province of Punjab on Wednesday, according to government authorities and residents, stoking tensions between local Muslim and minority Christian communities.

The National Commission for Human Rights said the number of churches burnt “has risen to eight,” in an update on Wednesday, calling the situation “sad and shameful.”

According to a police report obtained by CNN, two Christian men were arrested by local police in the town of Jaranwala on the grounds of “desecrating the holy Quran and abusing the Prophet Mohammed.” The report stated that the men had been booked under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Pakistani Christian communities are regularly targeted with the country’s strict blasphemy laws, which activists say have historically been manipulated to persecute minorities and isolate them from public life.

Yasir Talib, who works for the Centre for Social Justice and who was in the town at the time of the incident, said a crowd vandalized and set on fire the home of one Christian man accused of making blasphemous comments against Islam.

Multiple churches including the town’s Catholic Church, the Salvation Army Church and the Pentecostal Church, as well as the local Christian colony, were also vandalized and set on fire, Talib told CNN.

In a statement Wednesday, the assistant commissioner for Faisalabad, where the town is located, called for the deployment of armed forces to support enforcing law and order, describing the situation as “sensitive and vulnerable.”

Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar condemned the violence, writing in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “stern action would be taken against those who violate law and target minorities.”…

Pakistan is among the countries where blasphemy is a crime punishable by the death sentence….

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