Islamabad, Aug 16 (EFE).- Several churches were set ablaze Wednesday in a town outside the northeastern Pakistani city of Faisalabad after Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a Quran.
Mobs also burned and sacked homes of Christians in Jaranwala in response to the allegations, which were amplified from loudspeakers at area mosques, police spokesman Mohammed Naveed told EFE.
Many members of the town’s Christian community fled to escape the violence.
A Christian youth “has been accused of tearing pages out of the Holy Quran and writing blasphemous words against the Prophet Mohammed,” Naveed said.
Local police were overwhelmed and authorities said they were deploying units of the Rangers, a paramilitary force, to restore order.
The Rev. Azad Marshall, moderator bishop of the Church of Pakistan, decried the violence on X.
“Words fail me as I write this. We, Bishops, Priests and lay people are deeply pained and distressed at the Jaranwala incident in the Faisalabad District in Pakistan. A church building is being burnt as I type this message. Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been tortured and harassed having been falsely accused of violating the Holy Quran,” he wrote in a post that included images of the destruction.
While the blasphemy law dates from the British colonial period, it was during the 1978-1988 Islamist rule of dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq that it was a made a capital offense.
No one has been executed by the state for blasphemy, yet more than 60 Pakistanis accused of the crime have died in lynchings and episodes such as what happened Wednesday in Jaranwala are not exceptional.
In February, a mob stormed a police station and beat to death a man arrested on suspicion of desecrating a Quran.
The most famous blasphemy case involved Asia Bibi, a Christian women sentenced to death in 2010 but ultimately acquitted in 2018, igniting protests by Islamists.
Bibi was ultimately able to leave for Canada in 2019, though not before two prominent Muslim Pakistani politicians were assassinated for having advocated on her behalf and called for the blasphemy law to be scrapped.
Pakistan’s roughly 2.6 million Christians represent just 1.27 percent of the population.