More than 100 arrested after Muslim mob attacks Christian churches, homes in Pakistan

Woman weeping outside her vandalized home
A woman weeps outside her home, which was vandalized by an angry Muslim mob in Jaranwala, Pakistan, that attacked Christian churches and residences.
(K.M. Chaudary / Associated Press)

Police in eastern Pakistan arrested 129 Muslims overnight after a Muslim mob angry over an alleged desecration of the Quran attacked churches and homes of minority Christians, prompting authorities to summon soldiers to restore order, officials said Thursday.

The Christians living in the city of Jaranwala in the Faisalabad district quickly moved to safer places as the mob rampaged Wednesday, and there were no casualties from what was one of the country’s most destructive attacks directed against Christians.

Those who fled slowly returned home to see the destruction Thursday. At least one church was burned, four were damaged and two dozen homes were torched or badly damaged.


“We were sitting at home when suddenly we heard that a mob is coming and it is burning homes and attacking churches,” Shazia Amjad said as she wept outside her torched home.

She told the Associated Press that the mob burned household items and furniture and some of her possessions were stolen while she was sheltering with her family in a safer place.

Amjad said the rioters sprinkled gasoline to burn homes. Other Christians described similar ordeals and expressed bewilderment.

Pakistani police have arrested former Prime Minister Imran Khan after a court handed him a three-year jail sentence for corruption.

Aug. 5, 2023

Azeem Masih wept as he sat outside his burned home on a street where several had been set ablaze.

He said some of the rioters brought vehicles to take the Christians’ household items after burning their furniture and other belongings. “Why did they do it to us? We had not done anything wrong,” he said.

Local Christians consoled each other outside their damaged homes, and those who lost their homes had no idea where to go or what to do now.


Local priest Khalid Mukhtar told the AP earlier that he believed most of Jaranwala’s 17 churches had been attacked and his own home was damaged.

Railway officials say the death toll from a train derailment in southern Pakistan has risen to at least 30, with more than 90 others injured

Aug. 6, 2023

Delegations of Muslim clerics arrived in Jaranwala to help calm the situation, as troops and police patrolled the area. Local authorities have shut schools and offices and banned rallies for a week to prevent more violence.

The violence drew nationwide condemnation, with caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-ul-Haq Kakar ordering police to ensure the rioters were arrested.

On Thursday, Rizwan Khan, the regional police chief, said 129 suspects had been arrested and the situation was under control.

The rampage started after some local Muslims claimed they had seen a Christian, Raja Amir, and his friend tearing out pages from a Quran, throwing them on the ground and writing insulting remarks on other pages.

Police say they are trying to arrest Amir, who fled into hiding, to determine whether he desecrated Islam’s holy book.

According to Khan, the mob quickly gathered and began attacking multiple churches and several homes of Christians. The rioters also attacked the offices of a city administrator Wednesday, but police eventually intervened, firing into the air and wielding batons to disperse rioters with the help of Muslim clerics and elders.

Videos and photos posted on social media show an angry mob descending upon a church, throwing pieces of bricks and burning them. In another video, four other churches are attacked, their windows broken as assailants throw furniture out and set it on fire.

In yet another video, a man is seen climbing onto the roof of a church and removing a steel cross after repeatedly hitting it with a hammer as the crowd down on the road cheered him on.

The International Monetary Fund approves a $3-billion bailout for Pakistan that likely will save the nation from defaulting on its debt repayments.

July 13, 2023

The violence drew condemnation from various domestic and international human rights groups.

Amnesty International called for a repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Vedant Patel, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, called for calm and asked Pakistan to conduct a full investigation.


At a news briefing in Washington on Wednesday, he said: “We support peaceful freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion and belief for everybody. And as we have previously said, we are always concerned [about] incidents of religiously motivated violence.”

Pakistan has collected DNA samples from more than 200 families following last week’s sinking of an overcrowded smuggling vessel off Greece that left more than 500 migrants missing, including scores of Pakistanis.

June 22, 2023

Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, often just the accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynchings and killings.

Domestic and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities in Pakistan and settle personal scores.